Skip to main content

Full text of "Disciples on the Pamlico : a history of First Christian Church, Washington, North Carolina"

See other formats


THE LIBRARY OF THE 
UNIVERSITY OF 
NORTH CAROLINA 
AT CHAPEL HILL 




THE COLLECTION OF 
NORTH CAROLINIANA 

ENDOWED BY 
JOHN SPRUNT HILL 
CLASS OF 1889 



C289.209 
W317f 



00044637009 



FOR USE ONLY IN 
THE NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 




http://archive.org/details/disciplesonpamliOOharr 



DISCIPLES ON THE PAMLICO: 

A HISTORY OF 
FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH 

WASHINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA 



by 

Richard L. Harrison, Jr. 



Copyright 1991 Richard L. Harrison, Jr. 

Published by First Christian Church, 
Washington, North Carolina 

Printed by BookCrafters, Inc. 



The publishing of this book has been supported by the generous 
gifts of: 



Mr. and Mrs. James F. Bagwell 

Mr. and Mrs. Ray H. Briley 

Mr. and Mrs. E. W. Bunting 

Bertie and Vivian Cartwright 

Mr. and Mrs. Howard Chapin 

Mrs. Charles Daughtridge 

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Griffin 

Mr. and Mrs. Richard L. Harrison, Sr. 

Callaree and Wilbur Horton 

Family of J. P. Jackson 

Mrs. William F. Jarman 

Mr. and Mrs. William F. Jarman, Jr. 

Ada Lee Jarvis 

Mona W. Jarvis 

Dr. and Mrs. A. McCray Jones 

Family of Kathleen Jackson Kopp 

Family of Mrs. M. D. Leggett 

Family of W. A. Parvin 



Mr. and Mrs. Harry Pelletier 

Laura Pamela Pelletier 

Mrs. Carolyn Thompson Petrou 

Mr. and Mrs. C. Michael Poole 

W. R. Roberson, Jr. 

E. Leon Roebuck, Jr. 

Family of J. Max Roebuck 

Family of Dr. Ray G. Silverthorne 

Cecil and Elva Smith 

Mr. and Mrs. Deward Smith 

Mrs. Edna W. Spruill 

W. E. Stancill 

Mr. and Mrs. Clifton Toler 

Dr. and Mrs. Harold Tyer 

Mrs. Vivian C. Weatherly 

Sam R. Wilson 

Family of Heber Grey Winfield, Jr. 



Dedicated to those saints with clay feet who gathered together and 
nurtured the community of faith known as the First Christian 
Church of Washington, North Carolina. 



Acknowledgements 



Any book of history is dependent upon the insights, vision, and 
support of many individuals and groups. So it is with this project. 
First the name of Glen Weaver must be cited. This work has been his 
dream and his goal for a number of years. He has come to have a new 
and profound understanding of the communion of saints as he has 
served as minister of the First Christian Church of Washington, 
North Carolina. It is in their honor and in respect for their accom- 
plishments that he has urged and cajoled committees and board 
members and the author to bring the project to completion. 

The staffs of the Bosworth Memorial Library of Lexington 
Theological Seminary and the Disciples of Christ Historical Society 
deserve many words of thanks. Particular words of appreciation must 
be given to David McWhirter and May Reed of the DCHS for their 
assistance and service. Katherine Gay lord of the Carolina Discipli- 
ana Collection at Atlantic Christian College has on several occasions 
gone far beyond the call of duty in assisting the author. 

In addition, Pam Pelletier has supplied the author with impor- 
tant research data, often needed quickly and by long distance. Cal- 
laree Champion and the Centennial Celebration Committee have 
been helpful and encouraging, particularly as the project drew to 
completion. 

A most important acknowledgment must be given to Laura 
Davis, secretary and administrative assistant to the Dean of the Dis- 
ciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt for her hours of work transcrib- 
ing research notes, photo-copying, and preparing the manuscript. 
She has worked diligently and cheerfully throughout. When Ms. 
Davis left Nashville for Atlanta, her successor, Susan May, joined in 
on the task with good spirits and exacting efforts, and helped bring 
the final research and manuscript to completion. 

No one has been more helpful, indeed, crucial, to the comple- 
tion of this project than Mona Pelletier Harrison. She has served as 



V 



vi Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 

researcher, advisor, and editor as well as full and enthusiastic partner. 
She refused to have her name on the title page, but that is where it 
belongs. 

Many members of First Christian Church, along with former 
ministers, have been helpful and forthcoming with insights and sto- 
ries. Without these, this work would be the bare recitation of data, 
and such is not history. 

History is the life story of people and groups of people. This par- 
ticular story is of people with more faith than money, sometimes 
people of greater hope than reason, and almost always, people with 
hearts open to serve. 



Table Of Contents 



Chapter 1 From the Western Frontier to Eastern Carolina 1 



Chapter 2 Building A Church 11 

Chapter 3 Seeking an Identity 29 

Chapter 4 Maturing in Ministry 55 

Chapter 5 Beloved Apostle: The Bagby Years 71 

Chapter 6 Conflict and Growth 93 

Chapter 7 Maturing in Faith and Service 123 

Chapter 8 Weaving New Patterns 149 



vii 



Chapter One 

From the Western Frontier 
to Eastern Carolina 



By 1888, the Disciples of Christ were active in many parts of 
Beaufort County, but not yet in the county seat of Washington. It was 
time to do something about this, and that something was the creation 
of a Bible School, and then a church. 

Throughout their history, Disciples had followed a pattern of es- 
tablishing churches in rural areas, and then moving into county seats 
and later to large urban areas. Part of this process was simply be- 
cause the Disciples began on the frontier, where there were few 
towns, and no great cities. 1 

The Disciples in Washington were another congregation of an 
American-born religious movement that had grown rapidly in the 
middle part of the nineteenth century, and by 1888 were being seen 
as one part of the large Protestant mainstream in American life. 
While the face of the Disciples had changed significantly since their 
early years on the frontier, their fundamental commitments remained 
intact, even if there were serious tensions. 

The story of First Christian Church of Washington begins with 
the emergence of a religious reform movement in Kentucky. This is 
also the story of a young Presbyterian minister, Barton Warren Stone 
(1772-1844). 

Barton Stone was born in Maryland, raised in southwestern Vir- 
ginia, and educated in Guilford County, North Carolina, at the Cald- 
well Academy. David Caldwell was a Presbyterian greatly influenced 
by a revival movement called the Great Awakening that swept much 
of the American countryside in the 1730s and 1740s. 

According to his autobiography, Barton Stone had come to the 
school in order to become a lawyer, and make his fortune. He was at 
most uninterested in the high-pressure tactics of these revivalistic 
Presbyterians, and was disdainful of their intensity and seriousness. 
However, the powerful preaching of James McGready, among others, 
led him to despair for his soul. 



1 



2 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



A different preacher, with a different approach to issues of life 
and life hereafter, gave young Stone hope. William Hodge preached 
on the love of God, and God's desire that all be saved. Barton was so 
relieved by this new message that he set aside his plans to be a lawyer 
and offered himself to the Presbyterians as a preacher. 

Although raised an Episcopalian, Barton Stone became a li- 
censed Presbyterian preacher, and was sent by the Presbytery to serve 
in a church in Eastern North Carolina. However, cold feet interfered 
and as he approached the Tidewater region, he turned and fled. Con- 
fronted by an elderly woman who accused him of running from God 
like Jonah of old, Stone returned to the Presbyterians, confessed his 
sins, and accepted a new assignment in the wild lands west of the 
mountains. 

At first he tried Tennessee, and then in 1796 followed an oppor- 
tunity to serve in two small churches in the Bluegrass region of Ken- 
tucky. In addition to serving as a preacher, he operated a school for 
children in the neighborhood of his Cane Ridge Church. Here he 
found people who were cool in their faith, not eager to listen to an 
enthusiastic and warm-hearted preacher. 

He learned of a powerful revival underway in Southwestern 
Kentucky. In this territory of outlaws and scofflaws, extraordinary 
changes in people's lives were taking place. The people received the 
gospel message of redemption from their sins with great public emo- 
tion, with shouts and tears, with cries and fainting. Stone thought 
that such hard sinners required hard saving. 

Despite seeing much that he considered to be fanatical, he de- 
cided to announce a revival at each of his churches. The Concord 
Church near Carlisle, Kentucky, had a service of the Lord's Supper 
scheduled for June. This was a five day event in which emotions 
were already heightened. He invited several other Presbyterian 
preachers to join in the work there. Several thousand attended. 

In August it was the turn of the Cane Ridge Church to have a 
Communion service. (At this time on the frontier, it was common for 
Presbyterian churches to have the Lord's Supper only once or twice 
a year.) Word was sent out in all directions. Presbyterian ministers 
were invited to gather to do the work. Methodist ministers were in- 
vited also to participate, despite the fact that most Christians treated 
other denominations with open hostility. When some Baptist preach- 
ers showed up among the great crowds, they, too, were allowed to 
enter in the work. 



From the Western Frontier to Eastern Carolina 3 



Over the five days of the revival at Cane Ridge, perhaps as many 
as 25,000 different persons attended, some remaining throughout the 
event. The little log cabin church became the center of activities, 
with preaching stands set up in clearings all around the building. At 
some times as many as seven ministers were preaching at once. 

There was a great outpouring of emotion by these frontier 
people. Many lived for months at a time in wilderness clearings, see- 
ing only their immediate family, having to deal day to day with the 
most extraordinarily difficult labor one can imagine, and fearing the 
dangers of the deep forests. In the revival, they gathered together 
with more people than they had ever seen before, and the response 
was an explosion of human energy unrestrained by social custom or 
upbringing. 

Stone came away from the revival convinced of three things: 
First, if the gospel is to be preached properly and effectively, Chris- 
tians must learn that the church is and must be one, even as the Body 
of Christ is one. Second, the only way that Christians can ever be 
one is if differences of opinion and interpretation in matters of faith 
are respected. Third, all Christians must be encouraged to think for 
themselves, using the freedom which God has given to grow in un- 
derstanding and faith. 

Others were frightened by such a radical freedom of faith. Two 
years later, in 1803, Stone and four others were brought up on 
charges by their local Presbytery for going against the doctrines and 
practices of the Presbyterian Church. They reacted by withdrawing 
from the Presbytery and establishing their own, the Springfield Pres- 
bytery. But they soon realized that what they wanted to do was to 
become "Christians only." 

In a satiric document written tongue-in-cheek, Stone and his co- 
workers expressed their desire that the Springfield Presbytery "Die 
and sink into union with the body of Christ at large." In good fron- 
tier fashion, they criticized all types of formalism in religion, even 
the use of the term "Reverend" for ministers. In this "Last Will and 
Testament of the Springfield Presbytery" they argued that each con- 
gregation has the right to call its own minister, and they proclaimed 
their goal to base all decisions on the clear testimony of the New 
Testament. 

Slowly their movement spread, and new ideas emerged. By 1807 
Stone decided that baptism should be by immersion, and the proper 
candidates were those who could make their own confessions of 



4 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



faith. But this was not made a test of fellowship or membership in the 
Stone-led Christian Churches. 

After a brief sojourn in Tennessee, Stone returned to Kentucky 
where he served as a teacher. He continued to preach on a regular 
basis. He established his own monthly religious magazine in 1826. 
The Christian Messenger served as a valuable tool to spread the word 
of the Christian Church movement. 

Some years earlier he had learned of similar movements in New 
England and in the southern states of Virginia and North Carolina. 
Some of these churches came under Stone's leadership. Most of 
these eastern Christian Churches would, over a hundred years later, 
become part of the United Church of Christ. 

In the 1820s Stone and his followers began to hear of yet another 
reform movement on the frontier. Beginning in Western Pennsylva- 
nia, the panhandle of Virginia (now, West Virginia), and Eastern 
Ohio, the Reformers or Disciples who followed Thomas and Alex- 
ander Campbell had much in common with the Christians of Barton 
Stone. 

Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) was born in Northern Ireland 
and raised as an Anglican (Episcopalian). As a young man he became 
a member and then a minister of a very narrow, bigoted, divisive 
group called the Old Light, Anti-Burgher, Seceder, Scottish Presby- 
terian Church of Northern Ireland. He apparently came into this de- 
nomination through friendship with some members. He became 
unhappy with the sectarianism of his church, and even led a formal 
movement to begin to overcome some of the divisions represented by 
each word in the name of the denomination. In this effort he failed, 
and he soon thereafter sailed for the New World with plans to send 
for his family as soon as he was settled. 

Thomas was assigned to be a preacher and teacher in the frontier 
area of Western Pennsylvania. As he traveled about the region, he 
found Presbyterians who were not his kind of Presbyterians. For 
some of these people, it had been years since an ordained minister 
had visited and offered the sacraments. Thomas invited them to the 
Table. 

Some of the Seceder Presbyterians were offended by Thomas 
Campbell's willingness to share the Lord's Supper with the "unwor- 
thy." Just prior to being defrocked, Thomas Campbell resigned his 
appointment with his branch of the Presbyterians. 



From the Western Frontier to Eastern Carolina 5 



Campbell organized a missionary society that was intended to be 
non-denominational, with a goal of taking Christianity to the newly 
opened land of Ohio, where as yet there were few signs of the deep 
divisions among Christians. He hoped to establish churches that 
would be simply Christian, not Presbyterian or Lutheran or Meth- 
odist. For this Christian Association of Washington County, Penn- 
sylvania, Thomas Campbell wrote a little book to present their 
cause. The Declaration and Address proclaimed that division in the 
church was wrong, sinful, and prevented the church from being ef- 
fective in proclaiming the gospel in all the world. In words that 
shaped what would become a new church movement, he said, "The 
Church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and consti- 
tutionally one." 

Like Barton Stone, Thomas Campbell realized that the only way 
for Christians to be able to unite is to tolerate, even appreciate, dif- 
ferences of opinion and interpretation. Also like Stone, Campbell 
concluded that the Bible is fully sufficient in matters of faith, that 
creeds and confessions were used to divide Christians one from an- 
other. With this in mind, his followers stated, "Where the Scriptures 
speak, we speak. Where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." 

Meanwhile, Thomas Campbell's family, left behind in Northern 
Ireland, had tried to sail in October of 1808 to join husband and fa- 
ther. But a storm and shipwreck off the Scottish coast led to a delay. 
Thomas' oldest son, Alexander (1788-1866), used the delay to study 
in his father's alma mater, the University of Glasgow. 

By the summer of 1809, as Alexander and his family were pre- 
paring to leave again for America, a service of the Lord's Supper 
created problems for the young theologian. The Presbyterians of the 
day required an examination of each candidate to receive communion 
to see if they were worthy. Those who passed muster, morally and 
doctrinally, were given a lead coin, a token, which would admit them 
to the service of the Table. 

On communion day Alexander went to church, his mind in tur- 
moil over much that he had learned. He particularly questioned the 
establishment of barriers between believers and the means of grace, 
the signs of forgiveness and reconciliation. When it was time for him 
to go forward, turn in his token, and receive Communion, he placed 
his coin on the Table and walked back to his seat. In effect, he had 
excommunicated himself from the church of which his father was a 



6 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 

minister. He did not know that much the same thing had just hap- 
pened to Thomas. 

When the Campbells were re-united, Alexander eagerly took up 
his father's cause, and devoted himself to rigorous study and prepa- 
ration to be a minister. They established a congregation, the Brush 
Run Church, and Alexander became a preacher along side his father. 
But their concerns were for the unity of Christians and the authority 
of Scripture. They knew that they could not properly be the church 
in one isolated little log cabin church in a clearing in Western Penn- 
sylvania. First they tried to relate to the larger, and more tolerant, 
branch of the Presbyterians, but that did not work. Meanwhile, fol- 
lowing their dependence on the New Testament, they had begun bap- 
tizing believers by immersion. And so local Baptists invited them to 
join with them, and they were allowed to do so without swearing to 
the usual Baptist Confession of Faith. 

Relationship with the Baptists gave the Campbell movement ac- 
cess to a large number of churches. Young Alexander quickly 
emerged as a brilliant thinker and preacher. In 1823 he began the 
publication of a monthly magazine called the Christian Baptist. This 
added to the growth of the Campbell movement. 

Meanwhile, many Baptist leaders, particularly preachers, ex- 
pressed concern about the Campbells. These frontier Baptists were 
people with limited educational opportunities. The Campbells were 
European born and educated, and were themselves teachers. These 
differences created suspicion in the minds of some Baptist preachers. 

Of greater importance was a difference in theology. The Camp- 
bells were deeply committed to the cause of Christian unity. Even 
though they practiced believers' baptism by immersion, as did the 
Baptists, their understanding of baptism differed from the Baptists. 
For the Baptists, baptism is a symbolic action done in obedience to 
the command of Jesus. For the Campbells, baptism is an act by which 
the forgiveness of God, the grace of God is communicated and made 
known. More than entry into the membership of a congregation, for 
the Campbells baptism means incorporation into the Kingdom of 
God, joining with God in a profound and life changing way. 

There were other differences as well, but the combination of so- 
cial class distinctions and theological disagreements led to a parting 
of the ways between the Campbells and the Baptists. 

Meanwhile, Alexander Campbell had met Barton Warren Stone, 
and it became clear to many that the two movements had much in 



From the Western Frontier to Eastern Carolina 7 



common. On January 1 , 1832, a number of their followers in a meet- 
ing at Lexington, Kentucky, decided to join forces. The two groups, 
the Christians of Barton Stone and the Disciples of Christ led by the 
Campbells, joined to create a church of some 20,000 members. Over 
the period from 1832 to 1850, the denomination grew from 20,000 to 
about 150,000, and on to a million by the year 1900. 

From the beginning the Disciples were characterized by a num- 
ber of distinctive — though not unique — emphases. First was a com- 
mitment to Christian unity. It was this concern that made the 
Disciples appear quite odd in the contentious and sectarian atmo- 
sphere of American churches in the early nineteenth century. They 
believed that the only way to achieve unity was to respect and tol- 
erate differences of interpretation and opinion. As "Raccoon" John 
Smith put it at the union meeting of 1832, "'While there is but one 
faith, there may be ten thousand opinions; and hence, if Christians 
are ever to be one, they must be one in faith, and not in opinion.'" 2 

In seeking a practical and workable way of achieving union 
among Christians with their many different practices and beliefs, 
Disciples leaders, like some other religious reformers of the day, 
looked to the New Testament, with the conviction that the New Tes- 
tament represents a common denominator among all Christians. If 
only, they thought, all Christians of all denominations would agree 
to require only that which is clearly taught in the New Testament, 
then there would be no reason to remain divided. By restoring the 
faith and practices of the New Testament church, it was believed, the 
Disciples could provide a basis for Christian unity. 

Thus the theme of "New Testament Christianity" or "Restora- 
tion of the New Testament Church," became one of the clarion calls 
of the Disciples. However, as will be seen, the twin themes of res- 
toration and unity were of their very nature bound to lead the move- 
ment to division. 

In addition to an emphasis on baptism by immersion as the most 
faithful expression of the teaching of the New Testament, the Disci- 
ples also tried to follow what they believed to be the New Testament 
form of the Lord's Supper. Their biblical studies led them to advo- 
cate weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper. After early debate, the 
Table was declared "open" to any and all Christians who believed 
themselves worthy participants. 

Their understanding of the meaning of the Lord's Supper was 
precisely that which had been taught in the Presbyterian churches out 



8 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



of which Stone and the Campbells had come. The Lord's Supper was 
affirmed as a sign and symbol of the grace and love of God. In the 
Supper, the worshipper encounters the living Christ who presides as 
host at the Table. In sharing a common loaf which was broken, and 
a common cup into which wine had been poured, the church is re- 
minded that there is one body which was broken, so there should be 
one body called the church. 

A difference between the Disciples and most other Christian 
groups is the Disciples belief in the priesthood of all believers as a 
justification for laity to serve at the Lord's Table. Disciples said that 
the church has the authority to name any of its members to lead in 
worship at the Table. The right does not reside with the individual 
but with the congregation. From the beginning, however, the general 
practice was for elders to pray at the Table. 

As the Disciples grew, they moved to the west, and also to the 
east, over the mountains into Maryland and Virginia, the Carolinas 
and Georgia. In the fall of 1833 and continuing into 1834 Thomas 
Campbell, a man of seventy-one years, made a preaching tour of 
Eastern North Carolina, passing through Washington, and staying 
for some days in the spring around Pantego. From Raleigh to the 
coast the Disciples increased in strength. West of Raleigh growth 
was much more restrained. 3 

In 1845 a major union took place in North Carolina between Dis- 
ciples and many Free Will Baptists of the Bethel Conference. A num- 
ber of Regular Baptists had already joined with the Disciples, thus 
giving a strong Baptist base to the development of the Disciples in 
the state. There had been meetings of churches from the earliest days 
of "Campbellite" activity in the state, as well as among the few 
Stone-related Christian churches. In 1857 a significant step towards 
organization was taken when a state convention and a constitution 
were accepted. The annual meetings were characterized by mutual 
support, dealing with issues of discipline and recognition of minis- 
ters, and fellowship, but little emphasis on missions. In 1877 that 
changed, with the formation of the North Carolina Christian Mis- 
sionary Convention. Henceforward, a program of evangelism within 
North Carolina and support of the national and international mission 
efforts of the Disciples were central. 

By 1880 there were Disciples living in Washington, but they 
were participating in churches in the countryside, particularly Old 



From the Western Frontier to Eastern Carolina 9 



Ford and Athens Chapel. Beaufort County was one of the strongest 
centers of Disciples in the state, yet all the churches were in villages 
and rural areas. 

The Disciples were no longer a frontier church with little or no 
organization or structure to help them respond to needs. By this time 
the Disciples were well under the leadership of a second generation, 
and moving into a third generation. 

By the time the Disciples came to Washington, they had expe- 
rienced a rich and controversial history. And, as a denomination, 
they were maturing. By 1888, the Disciples had a number of national 
organizations. The American Christian Missionary Society, founded 
in 1849, had established a number of foreign and domestic missions. 
The Christian Woman's Board of Missions, established in 1874, had 
already become the largest and most active national group, with mis- 
sionaries in place in several foreign fields and numerous locations in 
the United States. The Foreign Christian Missionary Society, estab- 
lished in 1875, focused on missions abroad, and was beginning to 
make inroads in the name of the gospel. The National Benevolent 
Association, created by a group of women in St. Louis, was begin- 
ning what would become a major program of ministry to children 
and the elderly. The Board of Church Extension was helping 
churches arrange the financing to build their buildings. 

These and other organizations were providing the Disciples with 
a way to do ministry in an efficient and responsible way. More im- 
portantly, they allowed the thousands of Disciples and their congre- 
gations to express their participation in a movement that was also a 
church. The issue was not merely cooperation, though it was that, it 
was that they belonged to one family called a church, even though 
most of their experience of this family was in one congregation, one 
church within a church. And many of these congregations were able 
to come into existence because of the ministry of the other congre- 
gations and the national and state organizations. So it would be with 
the First Christian Church of Washington, North Carolina. 

1 Currently, the best single book on the history of the Disciples in the 
United States is Lester G. McAllister and William E. Tucker, Journey in 
Faith: A History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (St. Louis: 
Bethany Press, 1975). 

2 John Augustus Williams, Life of Elder John Smith, p. 453. 



10 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



3 All references to early North Carolina Disciples history, unless oth- 
erwise indicated, come from Charles Crossfield Ware, North Carolina Dis- 
ciples of Christ (St. Louis: Christian Board of Publication, 1927) and 
Charles Crossfield Ware, Tar Heel Disciples 1841-1852 (New Bern, NC: 
North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 1942). 



Chapter Two 

Building A Church 



In 1883, Francis Marion Green, reporting in behalf of the Gen- 
eral Christian Missionary Society (a new name for the American 
Christian Missionary Society), told of his travels that year through 
Eastern North Carolina. He described Washington 

as an old town. Before the war it was a place of considerable busi- 
ness importance, but the war left it in ruins and it has not yet fully 
recovered its old-time importance. But there are signs of progress 
in and around it. The lethargy which has hung over it for years is 
being lifted and modern enterprise is sending new blood through 
it. 1 

Green saw Washington as fertile ground for the establishing of a 
new church. He noted that Tar Heel Disciple leader James Latham 
Winfield lived in the town, and there edited the Watch Tower, a mag- 
azine of North Carolina Disciples. As for a congregation, "The Dis- 
ciples have no church in Washington yet, though a movement is now 
on foot which will soon result in a congregation." Green observed 
that except for Kinston and Wilson, no Disciples churches in the state 
were in large towns. Virtually all congregations were in rural sec- 
tions. He encouraged the Carolina readers: 

The time is now fully come when the Disciples should turn their 
attention to towns and villages and cities of the State. A good 
church in a thriving city of two thousand people, like Washington, 
is worth far more to the cause of Christ than one of equal size and 
wealth a dozen miles in the country. I shall look with interest to the 
success of the enterprise now inaugurated in Washington, and be- 
ing pushed by Brother Winfield and others. 2 

There had been Disciples living in and around Washington for 
some years. As early as 1875 the proceedings of the Disciples state 



11 



12 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 




W. J. Crumpler House — Where the Church was Organized in 1888 



convention listed two Disciples ministers (H. O. Cutler and T. W. 
Whitley) in Washington, and presumably serving some of the several 
rural churches in Beaufort County. 3 

The next year, 1876, a letter writer in the Watch Tower, named 
Seth B. Latham of Washington, encouraged readers to subscribe to 
this Disciples magazine. In 1877 there were several notices of Dis- 
ciples in Washington. R. T. Hodges of Washington was listed as the 
clerk for the First District Cooperation. Churches were encouraged 
to correspond with Hodges, reporting on their condition. Daniel M. 
Windley and W. J. Crumpler of Washington were listed as subscrib- 
ers to the newly combined publication, the Watch Tower and Chris- 
tian Woman's Worker. Almost certainly this was Walter J. Crumpler 
who would be one of the guiding lights behind the organization of 
the Washington church. 4 

That same year, another resident of Washington, took North 
Carolina Disciples to task for their seriousness about missions and 
their bad habits. C. T. Woolard pled with readers of the Watch 
Tower: "If you had called to mind the vast amount of money that is 
now being and has been wasted by the Disciples, and how the cause 
of Christ is languishing, and of the good that even the money spent 
for tobacco would do." He condemned those who would frequent 



Building A Church 13 



ball rooms. How can a Christian attend a dance and still be "unspot- 
ted"? Then he returned to the tobacco question, a brave (or foolish) 
stand in Eastern North Carolina: 



Does [the Bible] not condemn the use of tobacco? Are the black 
mouth, the stained shirt bosom, and the drenched church floor 
spots of the world or of godliness — which? 5 



By 1888 enough Disciples were located in Washington to justify 
some form of action. J. L. Winfield noted that there were at least 
forty Disciples in Washington, and that they '"should by all means 
organize without delay."' Later that year these Disciples formed a 
Bible School in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Walter J. Crumpler at 123 
East Fourth Street. The group was assisted by two prominent early 
North Carolina ministers, James L. Winfield and Augustus Latham, 
Jr. Both gave leadership to these Disciples as their other responsibil- 
ities permitted. They met in the parlor of the Crumpler home until 
they outgrew that space. For a period of time the Bible school was 
housed in the Baptist church then on North Market Street. 6 Although 
it was not yet a church, this was the beginning of the First Christian 
Church of Washington, North Carolina. 

Washington in 1888 was a busy town by the standards of Eastern 
North Carolina, and it was on the verge of major change. As of that 
year, the only railroad through town was a small gauge line to bring 
lumber from tracts of land north and east of town to the river. Four 
years later the predecessor to the Atlantic Coast Line would lay track 
and bring regular railroad service. None of the streets were paved as 
yet. Main Street from Gladden to Market was given a regular topping 
of oyster shells, which, when pulverized by hoof and wheel, would 
form a hard surface. It would still be several years before John H. 
Small would be able to convince enough of the town's voters of the 
importance of education to lead the city to establish public schools. 
By 1888 a telephone company was in place, but there was no elec- 
tricity thus far. Some streets were lit by kerosene lamps attended each 
evening by a lamplighter. 7 

The Bible School continued under the leadership of Walter 
Crumpler until the fall of 1891, when a congregation was organized 
and recognized by the North Carolina Christian Missionary Conven- 
tion. It is likely, however, that the action of being listed as a con- 
gregation by the state convention came some time after, perhaps as 



14 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



much as a year after the young congregation had begun functioning 
as a church. 

Perhaps the best evidence for this is that a piece of property was 
purchased sometime during 1889-1890, an action of a congregation 
more than a Bible school. The lot, located on the corner of East Sec- 
ond and Telfair Streets, an area then known as McNair Towne was 
bought for $225. Pledges for a building were first taken in January of 
1890 and totalled $648. R. W. Stancill, representing the state mis- 
sionary society, assisted with the building pledges. He reported to 
the 1890 State Convention that he had begun "an effort in Wash- 
ington which resulted in the purchase of a lot and the promise of lum- 
ber and shingles for a house of worship." 8 

The establishment of the First Christian Church was a joint ef- 
fort of local Disciples and their fellow Christians in the district and 
state. At the 1890 state missionary society Convention, the Commit- 
tee on Evangelizing reported on their efforts for a church in Wash- 
ington. They called on the Pantego and Old Ford churches to 
contribute funds so that Dennis Wrighter Davis might be assigned 
there. They formally recommended that Davis "give one-fourth of 
his time to the general field until the house in Washington is ready 
for use, and that this body [the North Carolina Christian Missionary 
Society] pay $200 of his salary." The Convention agreed with the 
recommendation and voted to continue to support the work in Wash- 
ington. In the same meeting, Walter J. Crumpler was elected Vice 
President of the convention. 9 

The officers of the State Convention followed up with their com- 
mitments. The Board of Managers of the North Carolina Christian 
Missionary Society met in Washington on November 6, 1890, and 
helped with arrangements for Dennis W. Davis to serve with the 
Washington group. H. C. Bowen, Corresponding Secretary, re- 
ported: 



Bro. D. W. Davis informs me that he will move to Washington so 
soon as he can find a vacant house. In the meantime he will push 
forward the church-building enterprise as rapidly as possible. The 
work of the new year begins hopefully, let all be up and doing; we 
have no place for idlers. 10 



Meanwhile, the churches in the area, organized as the Old Ford 
Union, recognized the church in Washington as a participating con- 
gregation, though perhaps as a "mission congregation," during their 



Building A Church 15 



November 28, 1890, meeting in Williamston. This is a year before 
the formal enrollment of the Washington church at the state conven- 
tion. In August of 1891, the newly formed Roanoke Union, created 
by joining the Old Ford and Albemarle Unions, raised $37.73 for the 
Washington mission. 1 1 

W. H. Stancill, present at the Union meeting in behalf of the 
State Missionary Society, presented a resolution that would have the 
Union meeting go beyond taking up a collection for the Washington 
church: 

Whereas: The church Building in Washington, N.C. is nearing 
completion and the brethren in that town desiring to complete the 
same by the time of the next State Convention, will most earnestly 
request that all the churches or individual members in the Roakoak 
[sic] Union use their greatest efforts to secure as large a contribu- 
tion as possible for the above mission work and carry it to the next 
Union and that the clerk prepare a letter and send to each congre- 
gation in the Union Meeting. Resolution reed, and adopted. 12 

With the support of the State Missionary Society and the Dis- 
trict Union, the small group of Disciples in Washington grew, and 
made progress towards the completion of their church building. Hav- 
ing outgrown the Crumpler home and moved to the Baptist building 
on North Market, they also met as needed in other sites in the city, 
including, according to one memory, the courthouse. 13 At the 1891 
meeting of the State Convention in New Bern, the First Christian 
Church of Washington was formally recognized and enrolled. During 
the business session on October 22, the church was listed as one of 
the Disciples churches of the state. In his report to the Convention, 
Dennis W. Davis, pastor for the Washington church and also field 
representative of the State Missionary Society, told of his activities 
for the previous year: 

Number of days spent in the field, 95. Sermons preached, 130. 
Additions, 128. Amount received, not including lumber for the 
Washington Church, $181.81. Soon after the last convention we 
began to get together the lumber for building a house of worship in 
Washington, N.C. The house is now inclosed [sic] — a frame build- 
ing 40x60 — and the wood work is nearing completion. We have 
organized a congregation with 60 members. They will meet in a 
hall until the church is ready for use. As all my work has been 
away from Washington, during the past year, the work there has 



16 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



been slow. The brethren have decided to have preaching every 
Lord's day for another year, provided, however, they can get the 
necessary help. If there is a place in the State with prospects suf- 
ficient to justify help, it is surely this. With the assistance of three 
hundred dollars for another year, they will be able to complete 
their house and employ a man all his time, which will be abso- 
lutely necessary, in order to insure success. 

Upon a recommendation from the Board of Managers of the Mis- 
sionary Society, the Convention voted to continue to assist the Wash- 
ington church with $200 for preaching during the coming year. They 
also commended the Roanoke Union for its support of the new 
churches underway in Williamston and Washington. 14 

In the statistical information listed with the minutes of the State 
Convention, the Washington church reported that as of October 1891 
it was a congregation of sixty members, with $200 raised for their 
operations and $5.50 given for various forms of mission work. They 
announced a pledge of $12.00 for missions. 15 For a struggling con- 
gregation in an economically struggling community, and in a decade 
of national economic recessions and a depression, this was an im- 
pressive record. 

After 1891, there are no additional references of direct support 
by the State Convention for the Washington congregation, though 
the 1892 minutes do indicate some additional salary support for Den- 
nis W. Davis. This may well have been for his work at Washington, 
since it became his primary responsibility, though that is not speci- 
fied. By 1893, however, it is quite clear that the church had become 
self-supporting and a leading congregation for outreach in the state. 

When the First Christian Church of Washington was formally 
enrolled and recognized as a congregation of the Disciples in North 
Carolina, it became one of only a few churches in Washington. Pre- 
ceding the Disciples in Washington were the Methodists, Baptists, 
Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Roman Catholics. Like many fron- 
tier towns of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Wash- 
ington had a parcel of land set aside for use by religious groups (and 
given by James Bonner). A church was built on this lot, at the corner 
of Main and Bonner Streets (now the site of St. Peter's Episcopal 
Church), and intended for the use of any religious group wanting to 
use the space. Visiting ministers to the town now had a "church" in 
which to preach, whereas before they had led services in homes or 
outdoors. 16 



Building A Church 17 



The Methodists were the first to have their own building. They 
had been organized during a visit by Bishop Francis Asbury in 1784. 
( Asbury, disciple of Methodist founder John Wesley, was the guiding 
force behind the development of American Methodism.). In 1798 the 
Methodists built a little chapel at Market and Third Streets, on prop- 
erty that had been the home of Methodist pioneers Dempsey and Sa- 
rah Hinton. By this time the land was owned by Ralph Potts, and the 
chapel built on his lot came to be called Potts Chapel. The little 
church was dedicated by Bishop Asbury in 1802 or 1803. This con- 
gregation built on West Second Street in 1831, only to have their 
church burned during the Civil War. A new church was built soon 
after, to be replaced by a larger structure in 1898-99, the current 
home of the United Methodists in Washington. 17 

The parish of St. Peter's Episcopal Church was begun in 1822. 
The Right Reverend John Stark Ravenscroft, first Episcopal Bishop 
of North Carolina consecrated their building in 1824. This church 
was also burned during the Civil War, and was rebuilt in 1867. Al- 
though there have been additions since then, notably the tower in 
1893, the nave and sanctuary of the church continue today much as 
they have been for well over a hundred years. 18 

The Presbyterians organized in 1823, and built in 1825. Among 
their founders were Jonathan Havens, Samuel R. Fowle, and such 
families as the Small woods, the Potts, the Telfairs, and the Pauls. 
The first building was burned by Federal troops as they fled the town 
in 1864. A new church was begun in 1867 and dedicated in 1871. 
The church bell was cast from half a ton of scrap metal collected by 
the women of the congregation. The material was shipped north to 
be made into a bell. The new bell was shipped home on the Cathe- 
rine Johnson which wrecked off Hatteras with all cargo lost except 
for the bell which washed ashore and was saved. The bell still rings 
over the city. 19 

The Baptists organized in Washington the same year as the Pres- 
byterians. Their founder was a former Methodist minister, Jeremiah 
Mastin, who became a Baptist while attending the Tranter's Creek 
Baptist Church, now the Tranter's Creek Church of Christ (with his- 
toric connections to the First Christian Church). Mastin and twenty 
others received the support of the Tranter's Creek congregation to 
form a Baptist church in Washington. This church was formally rec- 
ognized by the Kehukee Baptist Association on October 5, 1822. 
Since the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodists either had or 



18 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



were in the process of building their own buildings, the Baptists had 
virtually complete control of the community or free church building 
on Main and Bonner. In 1824, the simple structure was moved out of 
the way of the new St. Peter's building to a site on Market Street 
opposite the current City Hall (and former Federal Building and Post 
Office). In 1916-1917 the congregation built a new, much more ad- 
equate building on the corner of Main and Harvey. At the time that 
the Disciples were forming, the Baptists were in disarray due to con- 
flict and division, with only fifteen members still on the roll in 
1893. 20 This is why the Disciples were able to arrange to use the 
Baptist facilities prior to the completion of their first building. It is 
likely that many of the initial converts to the Disciples came from 
this troubled Baptist congregation. 

Roman Catholics could be found among the town's early set- 
tlers, certainly by 1789. In 1821, the first Roman Catholic Bishop of 
North Carolina, John England, visited Washington and he encour- 
aged the small Catholic community to gather and support each other. 
A church was built and dedicated by Bishop England in 1829, one of 
the first Roman Catholic churches in North Carolina. This building 
was also burned by federal troops as they evacuated the city. It was 
rebuilt only to be torn down in the 1920s to make way for a highway. 
Soon after, St. Agnes Catholic Church was built through a bequest by 
a New York lay woman. The Mother of Mercy Mission and school 
began in 1927. This school became the first racially integrated 
school in Washington. 21 

The first Missionary Baptist church in Washington was the 
Spring Garden Missionary Baptist Church for Colored of Washing- 
ton, established 1866-1867, meeting in the open under a large tree at 
Fifth and Respess Streets. For a while they worshipped in a small 
building on Fifth Street, and then moved to Gladden Street between 
Fifth and Sixth Streets. 22 Another Reconstruction Era Black church 
is the Beebe Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church now at 
the corner of Respess and Fifth Streets (where the Spring Garden 
Church had its start). This was the first Black Methodist church in 
North Carolina, and began in 1871 as the Christian Temple C.M.E. 
Church. It was founded by the Reverend J. A. Beebe with support 
from the members of the Methodist Church in Washington. 23 

This was a time in American church history when churches that 
had been racially mixed found themselves becoming segregated. 
During the Civil War many Blacks were able to worship apart from 



Building A Church 19 



their white owners, and they enjoyed the fruits of liberty in worship. 
With the end of slavery, new tensions between Blacks and whites re- 
sulted in Blacks choosing to build their own churches, often with the 
help of white Christians. Other Blacks found themselves forced out 
of the churches in which they had been raised. Several Black denom- 
inations were formed to join the few already in existence. Some de- 
nominations, such as the Disciples, saw a racially separate structure 
emerge within the larger denominational umbrella. The Eastern As- 
semblies churches of the Disciples, found primarily in North Caro- 
lina and Southeastern Virginia, developed apart from the white 
North Carolina Christian Missionary Society. Even today, with an 
intentionally integrated Regional and General structure, there are 
only modest contacts between Black and white Disciples congrega- 
tions. That is as true in Washington as anywhere else. 

Indeed, it is ironic that the same year that the First Christian 
Church was recognized by the State Convention, a Black Disciples 
church began in Washington. In 1891 it was announced at the Gen- 
eral Assembly of the Black Disciples that a lot for a church had been 
purchased on Seventh Street in Washington by Elder Satchwell. As is 
the custom with the Assemblies churches, the deed to the land was 
presented to the Assembly, which also agreed to pay off the indebt- 
edness on the property. By the next year the congregation, the Mt. 
Hebron Church of Christ, was in a simple frame building which 
would be replaced by a brick structure in 1938. 24 

The first home of the First Christian Church was completed and 
dedicated on May 1, 1892. Dr. Henry Harper from the Christian 
Church in Kinston preached for the occasion, joined by Augustus 
Latham, M. S. Haskett, and J. L. Winfield. By the appointed hour 
for the service, 11:00 A.M., the church was filled beyond its antic- 
ipated capacity, so that late comers had to listen through open doors 
and windows. Some $500 was raised to help pay for the building. 
Several observers said that the communion service at the end of the 
dedication was the largest attended Disciples celebration of the 
Lord's Supper in North Carolina, at least to that time. John J. Harper 
reported 



From eye and ear witnesses I learned that the occasion of the ded- 
ication of the Christian Church in Washington, N.C., on the first 
Lord's day in this month was highly entertaining and enjoyable, 
and in all respects most satisfactory. The building is a frame struc- 



20 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



ture well elevated and well proportioned, and beautifully and 
tastefully finished inside and out. The auditorium is forty by sixty 
feet giving ample accommodation for a large congregation. The 
house is well located in view of the probable growth of the city, 
easy of access, and inviting in appearances. 25 

This classically designed, wooden frame church with a cupola 
topped by a weathervane fashioned as a cross, had come to be built 
through the assistance of Disciples from nearby churches and 
throughout the state as well as through the sacrifices of the growing 
number of members of the congregation. One member, A. B. Whit- 
ley, is reported to have put a mortgage on his home in order to pro- 
vide necessary cash for the building. 26 

With a building in place, the congregation set about doing its 
work as a church. They had already taken their place as a contrib- 
uting member of the Roanoke Union. Just a month after state rec- 
ognition, J. A. Burgess and CM. Roberson represented the church 
at a November 28, 1891 meeting, and they brought with them a con- 
tribution of $5.00 for the work of the Union. 27 

A revival was held just two weeks after the dedication. Evan- 
gelist L. A. Cutler reported on the meeting and its success: 

Our meeting began under auspicious circumstances. Dr. D. H. 
Harper preached Sunday morning to a crowded house. Many, un- 
able to procure seats or even standing room, went away. By request 
I spoke in the Town Hall at 3 P.M. on the liquor traffic and its di- 
sastrous consequences. The room was packed. At night I preached 
in our church to as many as could be accommodated. One confes- 
sion, a young man. Sunday afternoon we had a prayer meeting. 
Monday evening a full house. Tuesday evening church about 
full. ... At the close of our meeting four young persons, two la- 
dies and two gentlemen, confessed the Lord Jesus. We are antic- 
ipating great results from the faithful preaching of the word. 28 

By the time of the fall, 1892, meeting of the State Convention, 
the church reported that in its first year with the Convention there 
had been twenty-two additions and a loss of three, for a net gain of 
nineteen and a membership of eighty-one. They had met their goal of 
$12.00 for state missions, and pledged an increase to fifteen dollars 
for the coming year. The Sunday School reported sixty-eight pupils 
and eight teachers, and a pledge of $5.00 for missions. 29 



Building A Church 21 



Dennis Wrighter Davis (1861-1912), the first settled pastor of 
Washington, served numerous churches both as minister and as evan- 
gelist for the state and district unions throughout Eastern North 
Carolina. He had studied at the College of the Bible (now Lexington 
Theological Seminary) 1886-1888, and came to the Washington 
church with a reputation as an outstanding preacher. George Hinton 
Crumpler, son of Jennie Latham and Walter Crumpler, remembered 
Davis as "One of the greatest pulpit orators ever to grace a pulpit and 
address an audience anywhere." He was also related to a Washington 
family: he was Mrs. S. F. Freeman's brother. (For many years Mrs. 
Freeman baked the communion bread for the church.) When Dennis 
Wrighter Davis died in 1912 at the age of 51 , he was survived by his 
wife and nine children. 30 

By 1893 the church had grown significantly. T. W. Phillips re- 
ported to the Watch Tower that worship attendance had increased to 
over 120 for the morning service, 174 for the Sunday evening ser- 
vice, and 74 for the Wednesday evening prayer meeting. Member- 
ship stood at over 130, an increase of about fifty in six months. 31 

A grateful congregation invited the 1893 State Convention of 
the North Carolina Christian Missionary Society to meet in Wash- 
ington. Thanks to the newly arrived Atlantic Coast Line passenger 
service, Disciples from across the state were able to attend the Oc- 
tober 24-26 meeting. The Convention filled the church virtually 
each session. The local newspaper described the gathering as "prof- 
itable and interesting," and the results were positive. A goal of $250 
for missions during the convention was reached. 32 

Among the issues discussed during the convention were propos- 
als to enter into discussions for union with the Free Will Baptists. 
This was a continuation of a long-time relationship between North 
Carolina Disciples and Free Will Baptists, including a union of many 
Free Will Baptist churches with the Disciples in 1845. The conven- 
tion also called for support of a new college, the Carolina Christian 
College in Ay den. A major topic of discussion dealt with a desire to 
strengthen the state supervision of ministerial standing and supervi- 
sion of ordination. 33 From early in North Carolina Disciples history, 
ordination to ministry was understood as a partnership between the 
local congregation and the state- wide manifestation of the church. It 
was agreed that since ordination gives a minister credentials wher- 
ever he or she goes (only males among Disciples until 1888), it is 
important for the larger church to have a significant role in evaluat- 



22 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



ing and approving those who receive ministerial standing. This 
strong stand offered some protection to trusting congregations. 

The delegates to the state convention must have been pleased 
with the planning and results of the meeting, for they elected as new 
officers and members of the Board of Managers a slate made up en- 
tirely of residents of Washington. Not all were members of the First 
Christian Church, though most were. James L. Winfield was elected 
president, and Augustus Latham vice-president. W. J. Crumpler was 
chosen recording secretary and T. W. Phillips as corresponding sec- 
retary. E. H. Whitley was made treasurer. Elected to the Board of 
Managers were: W. H. Stancill, D. W. Davis, O. K. Stilley, H. A. 
Latham, and E. B. Freeman. 34 

The 1893 statistics showed the church to have added 68 new 
members during the year with a membership standing at 141 . $41 .55 
was given to missions and $980 given for local work and expenses. 
The Sunday School reported 75 pupils and 12 teachers, one of the 
four largest in the state. 35 

By the 1894 state convention, the church had grown to 158 
members, and the Sunday School in Washington had given over half 
the total amount raised across the state by church schools for state 
and foreign missions. The Washington Sunday School was hailed as 
the "banner school." The next year the Sunday School repeated its 
efforts, giving $90.87 out of a total of $495.63 raised. Membership 
in 1895 stood at 184. 36 

One of the reasons why the church began appearing so quickly 
among the lists of those churches most heavily supporting the mis- 
sion and evangelism tasks of the church had to do with the program- 
ming of the church. In 1893, for instance, Children's Day was 
observed through the Sunday School, with a collection of over forty- 
one dollars, a significant amount in the 1890s. Children's Day was 
one of the denomination- wide recognized missions offering days, 
and the church entered enthusiastically into this form of missions ed- 
ucation and stewardship development. The children of the church 
were given little "mite boxes" in which they were encouraged to 
save through the year. On Children's Day, each child that brought in 
at least a dollar was given some form of recognition, often a coin 
from one of the nations where the Disciples were engaged in mis- 
sionary work. 37 

Using a carefully developed program of the Christian Woman's 
Board of Missions, the children's "Mission Band" was formed 
around 1893 under the leadership of Mrs. O. K. Stilley and Mary 



Building A Church 23 



Burgess Latham. Ethel Gattis remembers that "funds were raised 
sufficient to educate a girl in India, paying her expenses for nine 
years. . . . After her graduation she went out as a missionary of her 
own country." The Mission Band then chose another Indian child to 
support. The organization had as its twin objectives teaching stew- 
ardship and teaching about the missionary work of the church. They 
made use of a publication of the Christian Woman's Board of Mis- 
sions, the King's Builder, a magazine designed for children and their 
education in missions. Here were provided resources for church pro- 
grams which the children presented before the congregation, thus al- 
lowing them to "feel that they were a part of the church and had a 
part to play." 38 

Just as the women of the church provided for missionary and 
stewardship education for children, they also led the church through 
their organizations for women. The first of these was the Ladies Aid 
Society, created in February of 1893 during a meeting at the home of 
Mrs. James L. Winfield. Mrs. O. K. Stilley was elected president, 
Jane Burgess Randolph was chosen secretary, and Emily Latham was 
made treasurer. Dues were set at ten cents per month, and monies 
raised were to be used for local benevolent needs and to assist the 
church. Mrs. F. T. Phillips recalled, "It has been a joke during the 
life of the 'Aid' — if the men of the church needed money to pay a 
note, or whatnot — they would say, 'Let's call on the Ladies Aid.' " 39 

The Ladies Aid met semi-monthly except during the summer, 
when they met once a month. By the fall of 1894 they claimed 39 
members who were busy at work on a project to create a silk quilt as 
a fund raising project for missions. The secretary (at that time Jennie 
Gray Hodges) wrote all the Disciples ministers of the state asking 
them to send information on the churches they served. They would 
take this information — the name of the pastor, the number of mem- 
bers of the congregation, and the name of the church — and work this 
into a patch for a silk quilt. However, for a church to be included they 
had also to send at least one dollar for home missions. 40 

In addition to the Ladies Aid Society, a number of the women of 
the church created an auxiliary to the Christian Woman's Board of 
Missions under the name of the Missionary Society of the First 
Christian Church. This was organized in November of 1893, with 
Jennie Latham Crumpler as the first president (she served until her 
death in 1907, when she was succeeded by Jane Randolph). The Mis- 
sionary Society included many of the women who were members of 
the Ladies Aid. The difference in the two organizations was that the 



24 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 




First church building completed 1891. 

Pen and ink drawing by Raymond L. Alexander 

Missionary Society focused on the cooperative mission work of the 
state and national Christian Woman's Board of Missions. The Soci- 
ety served to teach about the mission program of the Disciples and 
encourage not only support, but "a missionary spirit in the church 
and to establish a form of systematic giving among the women." In 
recalling the work of the Christian Woman's Board of Missions in its 
various manifestations — local, state, national and even interna- 
tional — Jane L. Randolph repeated the words of nineteenth century 
Disciples leader Thomas Munnell: "This is a flame of the Lord's 
kindling and no man can extinguish it.'" Emphasis was assuredly 
placed on the phrase, "no man." 41 

In early 1895 Dennis Wrighter Davis concluded his ministry 
with the Washington church, though he remained in the city until the 
fall, apparently continuing with his work in behalf of the State Mis- 



Building A Church 25 



sionary Society. He had come to Washington to bring a group of 
people functioning as a Bible School and help them become a con- 
gregation, a community of faith called church. He had accomplished 
that task and far more. The church had a significant and growing 
membership. Its budget was adequate for its needs and its support of 
the mission of the church in the wider world as a part of a denom- 
ination was increasing in impressive ways. The congregation was no 
longer a fledgling church, but a strong people ready to serve and bear 
witness to the gospel. 

1 Francis Marion Green, "North Carolina Notes," Christian Standard 
(December 1, 1883), p. 452. 

2 Ibid. 

3 Watch Tower (November 1, 1875). 

4 Watch Tower and Christian Woman's Worker (December 1876): 173; 
(June 1877): 327; and (August 1877): 382. 

5 Watch Tower and Christian Woman's Worker (June 1877): 319-320. 

6 Margaret Winfield, "Seventy Five Years of History," in 75th Anni- 
versary 1891-1966, First Christian Church, Washington, North Carolina 
(Washington, NC: First Christian Church, 1966), pp. [2-3]; B. Frank Leg- 
gett, "The Bible School," Gospel Light (November 1941). 

7 Ursula Fogleman Loy and Pauline Marion Worthy, editors, Wash- 
ington and the Pamlico (Washington, NC: Washington-Beaufort County Bi- 
centennial Commission, 1976), pp. 66-71. 

8 Margaret Winfield, "Seventy Five Years of History," pp. [2-3]; 
Hilda A. Bowen, "Memoirs of a Little Church no longer there," 75th An- 
niversary 1891-1966, First Christian Church, Washington, North Carolina 
(Washington, NC: First Christian Church, 1966), p. [6]; Minutes of the 
North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 1890, p. 6. 

9 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 

1890, pp. 2-4, 8. 

10 H. C. Bowen, Missionary Weekly (November 20, 1890), p. 5. 

11 Minutes of the Old Ford and Roanoke Unions, 1887 et seq., tran- 
scripts, Miscellany Discipliana Collection, Carolina Discipliana Collection, 
pp. 35-39. 

12 Ibid. 

13 C. O. Jordan, Program of the 50th Anniversary, Record Book 6, 
attached to page 21. 

14 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 

1891, pp. 2, 6-7, 9. 



26 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



15 Ibid. 

16 Loy and Worthy, p. 297. 

17 Ibid., pp. 297-298. 

18 Ibid., pp. 298-299. 

19 Ibid., p. 299. 

20 Ibid., pp. 299-300. 

21 Ibid., pp. 301-302. 

22 Ibid., p. 303. 

23 Ibid., p. 304. 

24 William Joseph Barber, Disciple Assemblies of Eastern North Caro- 
lina (St. Louis: Printed as a private edition by Bethany Press, 1966), p. 85; 
Loy and Worthy, p. 304. 

25 John J. Harper, "North Carolina Notes," Missionary Weekly (May 
26, 1892), p. 1. 

26 Gospel Light (February 1944). 

27 Minutes of the Old Ford and Roanoke Unions, 1887 et seq., p. 40. 

28 L. A. Cutler, Missionary Weekly (May 26, 1892), p. 8. 

29 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 

1892, pp. 18, [23]. 

30 George Hinton Crumpler, "As I Remember," Gospel Light (No- 
vember 1941); Hilda A. Bowen, "A Large Family," manuscript of memoirs; 
Proceedings of the North Carolina Missionary Convention, 1912, p. 6. 

31 T. W. Phillips, "Gleanings from the Field," Watch Tower (July 
1893): 8. 

32 Washington Progress (October 31, 1893). 

33 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 

1893, pp. 11-14. 

34 Ibid., p. 12. 

35 Ibid., pp. 18, 22. 

36 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 

1894, p. 13; 1895, pp. 13-14, 16. 

37 T. W. Phillips, Watch Tower (June 1893): 8; G. H. Crumpler, "As I 
Remember.' ' 

38 Ethel Gattis, "The Mission Band," Gospel Light (November 1941). 

39 Mrs. F. T. Phillips, "The Ladies Aid Society of the First Christian 
Church," Gospel Light (November 1941). 

40 Janie L. Burgess, "Church Aid Society of Washington," Watch 
Tower (October 15, 1894); Church files, printed sheet headed "Washington, 
N.C., March 31, 1894." 



Building A Church 27 



41 Jane L. Randolph, "The Missionary Society of the First Christian 
Church," Gospel Light (November 1941); Minutes of the North Carolina 
Christian Missionary Convention, 1895. 

42 Watch Tower (October 1895): 4. 



Chapter Three 

Seeking an Identity 



From 1895 until 1900, a series of ministers served the First 
Christian Church of Washington. The historical records and memo- 
ries of members provide contradictions and blank spaces. According 
to some, Dennis Wrighter Davis was succeeded by his son, Dennis 
Warren Davis. It is likely that the memories of Dennis Warren Davis 
have been confused with Warren A. Davis, brother of Dennis 
Wrighter Davis and fellow minister. . The only Dennis Warren Davis 
about whom material is available was not born until 1901 . 1 

The successor to Dennis Wrighter Davis in Washington appears 
to have been Charles "Charlie" R. Miller. Miller served churches in 
Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky as well as North Carolina. He at- 
tended the College of the Bible 1887-1891. He was in Washington 
very briefly, beginning on March 15, 1895. By August he reported 
that his work in Washington had been 

very successful and pleasant. . . . The church is in a harmonious 
and prosperous condition. I have been here not quite five months 
and during that time twenty-six members have been added to the 
congregation. ... I am watching every opportunity to increase 
and extend and deepen the spiritual influence of the church. A 
bright future is before us, and may God bless and help us to do our 
whole duty. 2 

Soon after writing those optimistic words, Charlie Miller left 
the church to be replaced by John J. Harper. Why Miller left is not 
known. Harper came to Washington from Smithfield, arriving on 
November 22. Harper described Washington in late 1895 as a com- 
munity of 

about 6,000 inhabitants, and is the trade center for a large section 
of country. It is a busy thriving, growing town, with beautiful 



29 



30 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



streets and many handsome residences. The people, like most in 
eastern Carolina, are courteous, easily approached, hospitable and 
accommodating. 3 



The people in Washington were delighted with their new minis- 
ter. He had a reputation as an effective preacher, and he had already 
ministered with large churches in North Carolina, including Wilson 
and Kinston. He had served as a state senator in 1881 , had been Pres- 
ident of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Society several 
times, and would later become the second president of Atlantic 
Christian College (1904-1908). Harper was described as "a fine 
man, preacher and educator, stately and dignified." 4 

While Harper was in Washington, the State Convention returned 
to the church for the second time in three years. The 1896 State Con- 
vention was highlighted by the presence of Archibald McLean as the 
keynote speaker. McLean was the Corresponding Secretary of the 
Foreign Christian Missionary Society. In his speeches he brought the 
issues as well as the colors and textures of the world-wide missionary 
activities of the Disciples before the people. Through pictures in 
words the participants in the Convention had their understanding of 
and support for the missionary task of the church strengthened. 5 

As had been the case earlier, several state offices went to Wash- 
ingtonians: Walter J. Crumpler was elected President, Augustus 
Latham Vice-President, James L. Winfield Recording Secretary, and 
T. W. Phillips Treasurer. A. S. Kelly was chosen to serve as Corre- 
sponding Secretary. 6 

The state Christian Woman's Board of Missions held its regular 
meeting as a part of the State Convention, meeting at least part of 
the time at the Baptist Church. A presentation on the work of the 
CWBM in Mexico was presented by Jennie Crumpler. 7 The Mexico 
mission represented a major new advance for the CWBM, and would 
lead them to initiate relationships with other denominations in "co- 
mity" agreements. These were agreements by which the various de- 
nominations agreed to divide up various mission fields so as not to 
duplicate efforts in the same geographical locations. As a sidelight, 
those denominations participating in comity agreements, namely the 
Disciples, Methodists, Congregationalists (now a part of the United 
Church of Christ), the Northern (now American) Baptists, and Pres- 
byterians, essentially recognized each other as fully authentic and 
faithful churches through recognizing the geographical validity of 



Seeking an Identity 31 



their mission territory. This was a major step towards the ecumenical 
movement of the twentieth century. 8 

Issues dealt with at the 1896 Convention included a concern that 
the church and Sunday schools of the Disciples be careful about 
choosing literature and hymnals. All were encouraged to give pref- 
erence to Disciples produced literature and hymnals "which con- 
tained correct Scriptural teaching." Among the hymnals already 
recommended was Popular Hymns, which had the support of the 
State Convention as early as 1886. It is likely that this was the first 
hymnal used in the Washington church. 9 

The primary social issue discussed at the 1896 Convention was 
prohibition, with the Convention strongly supporting the anti- 
alcohol movement. A resolution was approved stating that the Dis- 
ciples "believe in the Prohibition by law of the manufacture, sale and 
importation of all alcoholic beverages, and that we favor the election 
of clean, temperate men to office, who will work for the suppression 
of this iniquitous traffic." 10 

The First Christian Church of Washington had been enrolled as 
a new congregation just five years before this Convention. By 1896 
they reported to the Convention a membership of 192 and twenty- 
five dollars given to state missions — second highest in the state — 
and the same amount to foreign missions, the most of any 
congregation. 11 

John J. Harper closed his ministry in Washington in late 1896, 
and was succeeded by Malcolmson Pittman who arrived in time for 
Christmas. The congregation welcomed the Pittmans with a "severe 
pounding from the great and small of the congregation." This 
friendly "pounding" resulted in filled larders and a sense of belong- 
ing: "We find our lines fallen in pleasant places." He was so de- 
lighted with his new situation that he wrote for the Christian 
Standard a description of the area every bit as appealing as that done 
by Harper just two years earlier: 



Our city has nearly eight thousand population. Farming land can 
be had cheap, and if some of our Northern or Western brethren 
wishing to find a good place for business would come this way, 
suitable inducements would be offered, I feel sure. We are located 
on the Pamlico River, as pretty stream of water as I ever saw. The 
Old Dominion Steamship Company, of New York, run several of 
their splendid steamers to our city. We have a daily and several 



32 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



weekly papers and one religious paper, The Watch Tower (Chris- 
tian), published here. So if this should fall under the eye of any 
member of the Christian Church wishing to come to a delightful 
summer climate, drop a letter and enclose a stamp and we will take 
pleasure in answering any questions. 12 

Pittman came to Washington from Troy, New York, and during 
his ministry the debt was paid on the first church. He was described 
as "an excellent preacher, organizer and indefatigable worker." By 
March 1 he was reporting on activities at the church through the 
Watch Tower. Some of his primary attention was given to the estab- 
lishment of a youth program under the general guidance of the Young 
Peoples Society of Christian Endeavor, an ecumenical youth ministry 
conducted separately by each denomination participating. 13 

At the 1897 State Convention the Disciples of North Carolina 
followed the lead of the Washington church (and a few other con- 
gregations), and established a state Christian Endeavor program. 
The Washington Church had 160 members in its Christian Endeavor 
program, easily outdistancing by double the next largest local soci- 
ety. By 1898 Walter J. Crumpler had been elected Vice-President of 
the State Union of Christian Endeavor Societies, the ecumenical arm 
of the program. Meanwhile, Malcolmson Pittman had been chosen 
State Superintendent of the Disciples and Jane Burgess of Washing- 
ton had been elected Secretary-Treasurer. 14 

Pittman also expressed interest in the life of the Black Disciples 
church in Washington and throughout Eastern North Carolina. Soon 
after his arrival in Washington he came to know the local Black lead- 
ership, and reported on his findings through the Christian Standard: 

It may be of interest to know that the negroes have a separate State 
organization from the whites. I have gathered a few items from the 
popular pastor of the Colored Christian Church at Washington. He 
reports eight thousand colored disciples in the state, with two State 
Conventions, Eastern and Western. ... He serves the churches at 
Lake Comfort, Shiloh, E[lizabeth] City and Washington. . . . The 
Colored Church in Washington has forty members zealous in 
Christ's work, a good prayer-meeting and Sunday-school. P. S. 
Satchel is Superintendent. The pastor, B. J. Gregory, is full of 
zeal. 15 



The next three years are a time of little information, but with 
hints of difficulties and even chaos. Sometime after the October, 



Seeking an Identity 33 



1898, State Convention, Malcolmson Pittman left the church, ac- 
cepting a call from the Disciples congregation in Elizabeth City. Sev- 
eral ministers are remembered during this time, but with no certainty 
as to their period of service, or even if some were interim pastors. 
The seriousness of what happened can be seen in church statistics. At 
the 1898 Convention the church reported a membership of 232, and 
the church tied for first in giving to state missions, gave the most for 
home missions, and was second in support of foreign missions. Sun- 
day School and CWBM statistics also placed the church in a lead- 
ership position in the state. This was the report of a strong, healthy 
church. By the 1899 Convention, however, the membership was 
down to 125, and giving was significantly lower except for the Sun- 
day School. 16 

It may be that Pittman was the one in conflict. Yet another brief 
incumbent is remembered. J. W. MacNamara almost certainly fol- 
lowed Pittman, though this is not known with certainty. What is clear 
is that MacNamara, like Miller three years earlier, served a very 
short tenure. It is equally possible that a succession of extremely 
brief ministries, or brief interim ministries, distressed the young 
congregation, resulting in the rapid loss of membership. All of this 
is speculation occasioned by a lack of data about what happened. 17 

James W. MacNamara was born about 1852 in Ireland, of Scot- 
tish parents. He came to the United States at the age of fourteen, and 
made his way south from Boston to Georgia. His athletic skills, par- 
ticularly in baseball, resulted in his friends and teammates sending 
him to Transylvania and the College of the Bible. He graduated with 
honors, having learned some seven languages. He became a minister 
and served as a state evangelist for Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Flor- 
ida. He served churches in Pennsylvania, Utah, and Virginia, as well 
as a short ministry in Washington. Presumably he was already mar- 
ried to Florida Fort MacNamara while in Washington. The couple 
had five children. 18 

MacNamara was described as "a strong preacher of the old Je- 
rusalem gospel." He could also have been described as a medical 
entrepreneur. To add to his income, he became a practitioner of hy- 
drotherapy, mechanotherapy and osteopathy. While serving in a 
church in Salt Lake City, he created the MacNamara Institute of 
Magnetic Healing. It is not surprising that he chose to serve churches 
in Florida and then retire there, a land of many opportunities for 
"creative" medicine. 19 



34 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



Sometime in 1899, or at the very beginning of 1900, Harry A. 
Blake was called to serve the church. Hilda Bowen dates his presence 
in 1900 as the presiding minister at her aunt's wedding. The Blakes 
did not stay long, because 



soon after their arrival they suffered the loss of their little Martha 
Elizabeth .... The loss of their baby was such a shock to them 
that they soon relinquished the work. He was a very handsome 
man with bushy red hair and a good speaker. 20 



After the departure of the Blakes, Joseph Daniel Waters (1870- 
1962) was invited to lead a revival at the church in October, and with 
good results. One of the local papers said, "We have heard Rev. 
J. D. Waters, who is conducting a meeting at the Disciples church, 
very highly spoken of. Go to hear him." A few days later the same 
paper reported "The attendance is large and much interest is shown. 
There has been a large number added to the church." By the end of 
the two week revival, it was announced that seventeen had been bap- 
tized along with three transfers. "Mr. Waters," it was said, "made 
a fine impression upon the audience." 21 

Before another two weeks passed, Joseph D. Waters had been 
called to the church to serve as minister. Waters later recalled that 



it was in the fall of 1900, following a revival that I held there, that 
I was called to the church. I served the church in a happy fellow- 
ship for two years until I was called by the State Board to serve as 
State Evangelist and State Secrcetary [sic]. 



In a life of ministry spanning seven decades, Waters would serve 
churches in seven states. But his days in Washington remained in his 
heart, as he returned to Washington in 1914 to marry Cornelia 
Marcuson. 22 

When Waters arrived in Washington, the membership stood at 
146 members with a Sunday School of 90 pupils and twelve officers 
and teachers. By the end of his first year, the membership had grown 
to 167, and reached 190 by the time he had left, a 37% increase in 
just two years. There is little wonder that after Waters' first year of 
service, he was called to serve another year at the grand salary of 
$10.00 per week. 23 



Seeking an Identity 35 



When Waters took office the church was led by an Official 
Board composed of four elders: Joseph B. Latham, Thomas W. Phil- 
lips, A. B. Whitley, and Aaron H. Wilkinson. There were also four 
deacons: W. J. Crumpler, George W. Lewis, Noah R. Robinson, and 
George W. Lewis. Phillips was chair of the Board, Crumpler was 
treasurer, and Gilbert S. Buck was church clerk, while W. D. Sin- 
gleton was clerk — or secretary — to the Board. 24 

The Board was the chief authority for the church in all matters, 
turning to the congregation to approve major expenditures (for ex- 
ample, the purchase of property), election of officers (with the 
Board serving as a nominating committee), and to confirm the call of 
a minister. The Board met monthly, with frequent called meetings. 
For years they met at the office of Walter J. Crumpler. Election as 
elder or deacon was for life, unless a person resigned, retired, or was 
removed by Board and congregational action. Every bill had to be 
presented to the Board for approval before payment could be made. 
One of the more extreme examples of this can be seen in a called 
meeting of the Board on April 19, 1914, where the entire record of 
the meeting states: "A called meeting was held on the above date, 
Bro. Dan Taylor asked that two footmatts [sic] be bought for the 
church. Bro. A. C. Harrison was appointed to buy them." 25 

The tenure of J. D. Waters was a time of steady growth for the 
church. That same growth and maturing could also be seen on the 
state level for Disciples. At the 1901 State Convention the Disciples 
of North Carolina passed a resolution authorizing the establishment 
of a college, which would result in the opening of Atlantic Christian 
College in Wilson in 1902. The resolution came from a committee on 
which both Walter J. Crumpler and D. W. Davis served. 26 Hence- 
forward there would be a strong connection between the college and 
the First Christian Church of Washington. The college supplied min- 
isters, youth leaders, speakers for special occasions, education for 
youth, resources and facilities for youth and adult meetings. The 
church responded with funds, trustees, and students. 

It has been suggested that Joseph Waters was succeeded by John 
W. McGarvey and then A. B. Cunningham. 27 However, if J. W. Mc- 
Garvey (Junior or Senior) were ever in Washington, it was certainly 
only for pulpit supply or possibly a revival during the period around 
1902-1903. And another minister served for two years before Cun- 
ningham appeared on the scene. 



36 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



J. Merritt Owen (d. 1919) arrived in January of 1903, shortly 
after graduating from the College of the Bible. While in Washington 
he returned to Lexington, Kentucky, to marry Katie Lemmon. Dur- 
ing their lives together they had three children. Owen also served as 
associate editor of the Watch Tower. His work in both arenas soon 
earned him high marks. H. C. Bowen described him as a minister 
"justly held in high esteem by all. He is doing a splendid work as is 
evident in many ways. The church has increased his salary [as of 
February 1904] and is giving him that encouragement which will 
stimulate him to do his very best." 28 

By the time Merritt Owen arrived, the town had continued its 
eastward growth, and instead of being on the edge of town, the 
church was now in the midst of an area of middle class homes with 
easy access to the heart of the town. Watch Tower editor H. C. Bo- 
wen described it as "a church without any very wealthy members, 
which has built a house and supported regular preaching for several 
years. All seem to feel at home. They sing the old songs and are a 
happy, united people in the work and worship of the Lord." And it 
continued to be a church that remembered the help which others had 
given to allow it to be born: 

What the Disciples have accomplished in Washington within the 
last few years can be duplicated in many other towns by good man- 
agement and zealous work. They stand ready to give willing and 
generous help to any such enterprise in which the brethren may 
decide to engage. 29 

Owen led the church in participating in an international ecu- 
menical call for a week of prayer and pulpit exchange. The first week 
of January, 1904, was set aside for the community event. "Each 
preacher was thus given an opportunity to preach from the pulpit of 
another church." Merritt Owen reported, 

My turn came on Friday night of that week, and the service was 
held in the Methodist church. The weather was quite inclement all 
week, yet a fair representation from each church attended all the 
services. . . . The fraternal spirit was in evidence at all times. The 
old spirit of prejudice seems to be slowly and stubbornly giving 
way, and the Christ-like spirit of brotherly love is gradually gain- 
ing ground. This is a sure step toward Christian union. 30 



Seeking an Identity 37 



This was but the first act, at least the first known act, of a long line 
of ecumenical activities by the churches of Washington, with First 
Christian Church acting out of its Disciples commitment to Christian 
unity. 

Owen's first year as minister went well, but not everything was 
sweetness and light. In August of 1903 a called meeting of the Board 
resulted in a decision to ask W. E. Stubbs, Board Chair and deacon 
to resign his positions. No reason is given, though he had missed 
three of the previous five meetings. It is likely that not all meetings 
were recorded in the record book, which could mean either more 
missed, or some attended. Stubbs resigned, and was replaced as 
chair by T. W. Phillips. 31 

It was not at all unheard of for a church board to exercise dis- 
cipline with its members. Those who held office were expected to 
follow through with their responsibilities, or face removal. This in- 
cluded the non-payment of pledges. And members were regularly 
dealt with on issues of morality, quarrelsomeness, and even disobe- 
dience. This was standard practice among Disciples of the day, and 
they were considered extremely tolerant by other denominations who 
would excommunicate members for expressing ideas in conflict with 
their denominational doctrines. 

In November of 1903, several young members of the church 
were discussed, with concern for their "unbecoming conduct." The 
elders were asked "to wait on" the seven in hopes of correcting their 
behavior without further action by the Board. They were apparently 
successful, as there are no follow up visits recorded, unless the fol- 
lowing entries of February 9 and 29 dealt with the same people: 
"Unbecoming conduct having been observed among some of the 
members, the Elders were asked to wait on them." And three weeks 
later: "Committes [sic] asked to wait on members for various of- 
fences made a favorable report." In March a matter of discipline and 
order in worship services was raised, with a decision to begin pro- 
ceedings: "Order during service was brought before the board, and 
legal means decided to be adopted as all others seem to fail." It is 
entirely possible that this referred to the announcement of rules of 
behavior, or simply a reading of the "riot act" to misbehaving 
members. 32 

It was one thing to chastise young people, it was another to chal- 
lenge the patriarch of the church. On July 12, 1904, "The condition 
of our late Deacon and Treasurer W. J. Crumpler was discussed. The 



38 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



elders were asked to visit him and consided [sic, read consider] the 
adviseability [sic] of withdrawing from him, and to report next meet- 
ing." The phrase "withdrawing from him" meant that they were 
considering excommunicating him. Nothing is ever cited in the min- 
utes as to the cause of their disgruntlement, but it was surely a se- 
rious matter. The case does not appear again in the minutes. 33 

A more common form of discipline occurred in a series of Board 
meetings in 1907. In March "Bro. Woolard reported the misconduct 
by Sister Aida Pipkin, she having been a participant in a dance held 
in the armory last week. The Elders was [sic] asked to call on her and 
report." In September the Board again addressed charges against one 
of their own: "There was [sic] charges made against J. B. Latham as 
follows[:] The use of foul or bad language and not paying on his 
debts. The charges was [sic] made by E. H. Whitley." Two weeks 
later Latham was brought to trial before the Board. 

J. B. Latham plead guilty of telling jokes for yarns. This being one 
charged perferred [sic]. J. B. Latham admits that he owes some 
accts. that have been standing for some time but he deny [sic] the 
fact that they will not be paid and the last charg [sic] but not least 
he also flatly denies that he is seriously handycaping [sic] the work 
by his retention as and [sic] elder at Lord's table. The evidence of 
E. H. Whitley was heard and no further business Board mooved 
[sic] to adjourn to meet after the evening survace [sic]. 

When the meeting resumed later that night, "the matter was dis- 
cussed in detail concerning J. B. Latham, and put to a vote and was 
carried by three voted not guilty." 34 

One lengthy case finally resulted in a decision to exclude or ex- 
communicate. On October 15, 1905, "The Elders were asked to call 
on Raleigh Grumpier & Lewis Pipkin and get statement from them 
relative to their recent conduct and report at next meeting." From the 
tone of the entry, it would appear that whatever the two had done had 
been or had become a matter of public knowledge. In November, 
"A. B. Whitley reported having seen Raleigh Crumpler and urged 
him to attend divine services and to live a more Consecrated Chris- 
tian life." At the same meeting, "Bro Lewis Pipkin appeared before 
the Board and his recent conduct was discussed quite lengthy [sic] he 
gave the board a promise to be more regular in attending our Church 
services, and to endeavor to use his best efforts to conform with the 



Seeking an Identity 39 



obligation he has taken." There is no further entry until five months 
later, on April 8, 1906, when "it was moved and carried the Board 
reccommend [sic] that the Church withdraw from Bro. Lewis Pipkin, 
his Conduct having been of a nature unbecoming a Christian." 35 The 
last entry, that of a recommendation "that the Church withdraw" 
would appear to mean that while the Elders would investigate, en- 
courage, chastise, and warn, and the Board would try a case, only 
the congregation could actually excommunicate a member. Unfortu- 
nately, congregational decisions were rarely recorded in the minutes. 

A growing congregation meant increasing demands on the 
church building. An opportunity to improve the sanctuary came in 
1904 with the bequest from Gilbert (Gibb) S. Buck in the amount of 
$250. Buck had been a leader in the church, and had served as 
Church Clerk until 1902, when he moved away from Washington. 
His family agreed that a choir loft would be an appropriate memo- 
rial, and asked that a marble tablet be placed in the choir loft to re- 
mind all who saw it of the gift that had made its construction 
possible. When the new church was built across the street, the mar- 
ble plaque was moved into the new facility so that the original gift 
could continue in the memory of the congregation. 36 

Meanwhile, church leaders had already started contemplating 
the need for new space. In the spring of 1903 the Board made a de- 
cision to enlarge the building, and appointed a building committee to 
make appropriate plans. These ideas appear to have died in the wake 
of a period of financial difficulty. The only major improvement made 
was the addition of the choir loft, and even with the Buck bequest to 
provide the primary cost, it would be another three years before this 
project would be completed. When finished, it was a ten by fifteen 
foot platform to the side of the pulpit, in the right hand corner of the 
church. There would be no further effort to address the issue of space 
for ten years. 37 

In January of 1904 a growing deficit led the Board to recom- 
mend to the congregation the election of an additional elder. By the 
end of February matters had not improved, and the Board decided to 
collect on unpaid pledges. The deacons were instructed to hire a bill 
collector to raise funds for the current expenses of the church, paying 
the collector a ten percent commission. Some relief was achieved, 
but as a meeting of the Board on May 31 , Merritt Owen "gave due 
notice that unless some great amendment was made in the financial 



40 Disciples dn the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



condition of affairs that his services would discontinue after Aug. 
1st. No definite plans were made toward this end." 38 

In the midst of this financial crisis, the Board did as had been 
done ten years earlier in raising funds for the church building, and as 
would be done again many times over in the future, the men turned 
to the women for assistance. On July 12, 1904, the Board officially 
asked the women of the church to help in paying off the accumulated 
debt of the church. The women apparently came to the rescue of the 
church, as there is no further reference to a financial crisis in the 
minutes of the next several months. By February 1905, however, fi- 
nancial woes appeared again. The Board asked Julia E. Burgess to 
take charge of the list of pledges and seek payment from members. In 
addition, the church clerk was asked to prepare a list of church mem- 
bers who were not attending services so that the Board members and 
the minister might be able "to urge them to attend, and not only give 
us their presence but their means which are so badly needed, and 
thus build up our congregation." The financial difficulties created 
problems for the pastor. "The Board appreciating the financial con- 
dition of the church and realizing our worthy pastor must be paid, 
voluntarily raised in cash $21.50, which amount was paid over to 
him." 39 

While struggling financially, the church continued to rebound 
from its decline during the late 1890s. In June 1904, Dr. J. C. Cog- 
gins began a two week long revival resulting in nineteen new mem- 
bers. In typical Disciples fashion, Coggins presented the Christian 
faith in a manner that was both clear and forthright and also logical 
and thoughtful. The Watch Tower reported on the revival, saying that 
the attendance had been strong despite bad weather: 

The doctor is preaching in his characteristic way. His sermons are 
strong, eloquent, and forcible. He is bringing out of the sacred 
treasure of the gospel things both new and old. By his clear think- 
ing he often startles us by turning a flood of light on old truths and 
hitherto mysterious passages. His appeals to sinners are strong and 
convincing. His exhortations and teachings for Christians are 
stimulating to the mind and heart, and are well calculated to build 
them up and make them strong in Christ. His teachings are so clear 
and simple that the child and illiterate mind can comprehend them, 
yet they are so logical, practical and philosophical that they pro- 
voke thought in the profound scholars. We hope much for a great 
meeting. On to victory! 40 



Seeking an Identity 41 



The church renewed its commitment to the missionary work of 
the Disciples. The Board in this regard saw a responsibility to allow 
their capable minister to serve young and struggling churches in the 
area. In 1903 they adopted a policy of unusual generosity in sharing 
the time of their minister: 

Whereas, there is a great and increasing demand for the preaching 
of the simple gospel of Christ in all parts of our Beloved Land, and 
Whereas, we recognize the splendid results which have every- 
where attended the preaching of the truth by our faithful ministers 
during the past year, Be it therefore resolved by the Church of 
Christ worshiping at Washington N.C. that the congregation re- 
comend to its minister the holding of a series of evangelistic ser- 
vices either at home or at some needy points at some time during 
the year, and that this congregation hereby pledges itself to support 
in every way the efforts of its minister to make this the crowning 
year of its existence in the work of soul-saving. Be it further Re- 
solved, that during the absence of our minister in such missionary 
evangelistic work, this congregation agrees to supply his pulpit 
and to pay his salary and necessary traveling expenses during his 
Absence, [sic on punctuation, capitalization, and spelling through- 
out the quotation] 41 

During the height of the financial struggles of the church to pay 
its current bills, the congregation did continue to provide leadership 
to the entire state in support of the missionary program of the Dis- 
ciples. It was reported in March of 1904 that the Washington church 
had given more to state work since the fall State Convention than any 
other congregation. Merritt Owen explained that he had been empha- 
sizing mission support in both morning and evening services. "We 
talked missions, we preached missions, we prayed for missions, and 
we worked hard for missions.' ' He preached two or three sermons on 
missions in January of that year, distributed materials from the Dis- 
ciples Foreign Christian Missionary Society, and sent a letter to each 
member of the church giving them the facts and details of their de- 
nominational mission work. He noted that "one lady said that she 
felt like giving everything that she had. That's what I was aiming to 
do." He complained that ministers have to beg and plead for "the 
small pittance of fifty or seventy-five cents to save an immortal soul 
from death," while folks will "spend eight or ten dollars for a hat." 
He did not mind if forceful preaching bothered some people. 42 



42 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



In addition to denominational missions work, the church moved 
to be more systematic and intentional in its efforts to serve the Wash- 
ington community. In a meeting of October 13, 1904, the Board de- 
cided to recommend to the church that a committee "be appointed 
whose duty shall be to assist in cases of distress regardless of Church 
affiliation. They shall be known as a relief commity [sic] of the 
Church of Christ." (Until the middle of the twentieth century, it was 
not at all unusual for a Disciples congregation to refer to itself as 
"Church of Christ" as well as "Christian Church.") Part of the rec- 
ommendation was that the committee be composed of five members 
living in different parts of the city, so that they would be likely to 
know more about the needs of the various areas of the community. 
There were two unusual aspects of this action. First of all, this was 
presented to the congregation for approval, indicating the serious- 
ness by which the Board held the work of the proposed committee. 
Secondly, when approved by the congregation, the committee as 
appointed included two women, a first for a committee of the Offi- 
cial Board. Those named to the committee were: A. B. Whitley, 
G. W. Lewis, Bartemus Woolard, Annie L. Woolard, and Edith 
Campbell. 43 

Although Disciples began ordaining women to Christian minis- 
try about 1888, and even though women were leading in missions 
with the Christian Woman's Board of Missions and the National Be- 
nevolent Association, it was still very unusual to have women serv- 
ing with men on committees of local churches. This action by the 
First Christian Church of Washington placed it among the most pro- 
gressive of Disciples churches of that day. And, this also represents 
another step in a long history of commitment by the congregation to 
the basic needs of people in the community. 

Not everyone approved of a minister's emphasis on missions. 
S. K. Ingalls of Washington (though it is not certain that he was a 
member of First Christian), wrote a sarcastic letter to the editor of 
the Watch Tower about ministers and missions and money in 1905. 
With tongue firmly in cheek, he asked: 



Is it anymore sin to raise tobacco, chew, or sell it, than it is for 
preachers to harp for missions on every term, then Paul says the 
love of money is the root of all evil? Finally, how many preachers 
can say that they don't love it? Speak out, if any. Take this in view: 
the Christian man who gives his money for tobacco is trading off 



Seeking an Identity 43 



evil for what he has lost, the love he had for his money. I think if 
we listen to some of the preachers [as to] what to raise, they will 
say stock-raising is the most profit of any. Well, we all like the 
fatted calf and chicken; so do most of the preachers. Hope you 
won't get worried at this. They think if [they] can get the farmers 
out of the notion to raise tobacco, it will raise stock or poultry in- 
stead, and there is a ready shilling or two on their arrival. I come 
on line with the preachers as to keeping tobacco out of the church. 
What does God say about it? When he says he created every herb, 
and all was good, is tobacco left out or not? . . . The cry of the 
church today is money; money for this and money for that; more 
money for everything. . . . Just think of how the young preachers 
of today got their first start. It was from this plant called to- 
bacco. ... If the farmers did not pay the preachers with tobacco 
money, they would soon be wearing patched clothes. 44 

There may well have been others who shared such an anti-missions 
perspective, but in the First Christian Church of Washington, their 
influence was small. 

Under Merritt Owen's leadership the church continued to em- 
phasize a strong youth program. Owen wrote of the importance of 
the youth in an article in the Watch Tower: 

What boundless possibilities are within the reach of youth! As 
their energies are exhaustless, so also are their possibilities. If this 
outflow of youthful vigor cannot be suppressed, it can be con- 
trolled. If directed in the channels of righteousness it will become 
an irresistible power in the world for Christ. But if satanic forces 
direct it, then destruction to manhood, to home and happiness, will 
be the sad terminus. 

But, thanks be to the wisdom and providence of God, we are 
awakening to a full realization of this great fact. The children are 
being enlisted for Christ. Their boundless enthusiasm is being di- 
rected in the work of world-wide evangelization. They are being 
taught that the highest joy is found in the service of humanity. 
Once taught to know Christ, and their love of service for Him be- 
comes divinely beautiful. 45 

As an example of what can be done with the youth in the church, 
Owen reported on the Easter evening worship service at Washington 
which was led by the children and youth of the church. Under the 
leadership of Julia Burgess and Edith Campbell, a program was pre- 



44 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



sented which Owen described as "the richest and best-rendered I 
have ever seen by the children." And, "to crown it all the already 
charmed audience was completely captivated by a solo sung by little 
Etta Lee Campbell, only six years old." Prophetically Owen com- 
mented, "I think we have some of the best material here for our fu- 
ture church that I know of. Already their influence is becoming 
great. They are rapidly taking the lead." 46 

In the fall of 1904 the church again hosted the North Carolina 
Christian Missionary Convention. The church reported a member- 
ship of 198, and 125 Sunday School students. The Christian Wom- 
an's Board of Missions chapter claimed 21 members, and the Young 
People's Department of the CWBM had 57 members, the second 
largest youth program in the state. The church led the state in sup- 
port of foreign missions, and was second in giving to the state pro- 
gram. The Sunday School offering was also second largest in the 
state, while the CWBM giving was third and the Youth Department 
fourth. 47 

The Convention again turned to Washington for leadership in a 
number of areas. Pastor Merritt Owen was named to a committee to 
work on improving Sunday School work throughout the state, and 
also to organize a state-wide Sunday School convention. S. F. Free- 
man was elected to the board of trustees of Atlantic Christian Col- 
lege. Jennie Crumpler was re-elected to the State Board of the 
Christian Woman's Board of Missions. 48 

After a busy two years as minister, Merritt Owen left Washing- 
ton in June of 1905. It was suggested that he resigned on account of 
health reasons, and in 1904 it had been reported that he was having 
serious trouble with his eyes. However, he did move from Washing- 
ton to serve another church in either Kentucky or Indiana. It had been 
a roller-coaster ride, including growth, financial crisis, discipline 
problems, strengthening of the internal organization of the church, 
and hosting a State Convention. In addition to serving as pastor to an 
active church, Owen had been an associate editor of the Watch 
Tower, served on district and state committees, and led revivals in 
numerous churches. 49 

Albert B. Cunningham (b. 1858), a graduate of Wabash College 
and an experienced minister, came to Washington in early fall of 
1905. He was married to Nettie Elliott, and the couple had two chil- 
dren. He came to Washington from Tiffin, Ohio, and was promised 
a salary of one thousand dollars. Soon after he arrived, the Board 



Seeking an Identity 45 



expressed appreciation for the role of the State Secretary of the 
North Carolina Christian Missionary Society, J. B. Jones, in helping 
them to call Cunningham. The Church Clerk was instructed to write 
Jones "setting forth our sincere thanks for his efforts towards us in 
securing the most excellent Pastor we now have." 50 

Cunningham received high marks as a preacher and leader. 
George Hinton Crumpler would remember Cunningham as "one of 
the ablest men who ever served the church." The State Secretary re- 
ported in 1907 that he heard one person say: 



We have a man in the Washington pulpit of whom we are never 
ashamed. No matter who comes to our services or when, we are 
not afraid that the cause will be injured or disgraced. Bro. Cun- 
ningham always preaches with great credit to himself and to the 
cause he represents. 



Soon after coming to Washington Cunningham was elected to the 
Board of Trustees of Atlantic Christian College, and was a guest 
preacher at the college. 51 

The place of music in the worship of the congregation received 
emphasis during Cunningham's ministry. An article in one of the 
Washington newspapers reported that "the congregation and all the 
members of the church are elated over the music. The choir uses an 
organ in the morning and a piano at the night service. Miss Bettie 
Burgess is the organist at the morning service and Miss Clara Kelly 
at night." But in addition to the music, the sermons of A. B. Cun- 
ningham were bringing attention to the church. "If the present rate 
of attendance keeps up, the church will have to be enlarged, as Rev. 
Mr. Cunningham, the pastor, is preaching strong sermons." 52 

If adding to the building was not possible, the congregation 
found that it could at least make the church more attractive and ap- 
pealing. The Board agreed in September 1907 to spend $1,455 for 
new carpeting and other renovations. They also agreed to consider 
repairs on the church furnace before cold weather arrived. 53 These 
were heady sums for a congregation composed primarily of workers 
and small merchants and their families. 

Financial difficulties continued to hound the church. In Febru- 
ary of 1906, F. P. Whitley was appointed as church collector, to be 
paid a dollar a day for his services. Two weeks later he reported that 
he had been unable to raise any funds for the church due to other 



46 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



commitments. A. B. Whitley was then appointed in his place. A 
scheme was discussed by which a poster would be made listing the 
entire membership of the church, with each family or person con- 
tributing on a particular Sunday to be marked with a brass tack. 54 

What appeared to be a good way to encourage reluctant donors 
to do their share turned out to be an embarrassment to members who 
were themselves financially embarrassed. In August, three months 
after the appearance of the public roll of church contributors, the 
Board took action to protect well-intentioned but financially 
strapped members. Meanwhile, Board members covered the church's 
gas and coal bills, and Mary Crumpler was appointed the new church 
collector on a ten percent commission. 55 

One who suffered on account of the financial problems of the 
church was the minister. In the fall of 1906 several attempts were 
made to catch up on the back pay due Cunningham. In the March 3, 
1907, meeting of the Board, "Bro. Cunningham asked us to use our 
best efforts to effect collection of delinquent accounts as he was in 
need of funds." Board members, each of whom had been assigned a 
portion of the membership, reported only modest success. Matters 
reached a point where one member who asked for a letter of transfer 
to the Methodist church in Washington was told that the letter would 
depend on his meeting the outstanding amount on his pledge. The 
Board had little success in this method of fund raising, and so turned 
to a reliable source: the women of the church. At the April 14, 1907, 
meeting of the Board, a motion was passed stating that "we extend 
a vote of thanks to Mrs. G. W. Freeman and Mrs. W. D. Woolard for 
their kindness in making a collection for the church." In the same 
meeting the Board approved payment on a number of bills due. 56 

All the while the women were bringing solvency back to the 
church, they maintained their commitment to the missionary efforts 
of the denomination, and the missions education of children. In 
March of 1907, Christian Woman's Board of Missions executive 
Elizabeth Tesh spent several days in Washington, during which she 
preached during a Sunday evening service. This was perhaps the first 
time a woman preached in the church. This was followed by an Eas- 
ter Sunday program with the children (under the leadership of the 
women), in charge of the evening service. Their emphasis was on 
CWBM and National Benevolent Association orphanages in the 
United States and abroad. 57 



Seeking an Identity 47 



The Sunday School program at the church used the power of 
competitive spirit to strengthen its work. The Sunday School of the 
Greenville Christian Church challenged the Washington Sunday 
School "to enter into a contest for six months," with points earned 
by adding members, amounts given, and general support of the 
school. The losing group was to provide a banner for the winners. 
The lack of subsequent reference to the competition may well mean 
that the Greenville church group won. 58 

Indiana evangelist E. B. Barnes was called to Washington in 
June of 1907 to conduct a "protracted meeting." Early reports told 
of his effective sermons and forty-one additions in the first two 
weeks. His sermons attracted attention in the community, including 
one with the title "Hell with the Lid off." A week later and twelve 
more additions, the response was enthusiastic. One who may not 
have been so enthusiastic may have been the janitor who had to fill 
the baptistry (located under the floor behind the pulpit) with a hand- 
operated water pump! 59 

Cunningham spoke with pleasure about the results of the meet- 
ing, particularly in the face of the problems encountered by Disciples 
in the city: 

Those who are on the inside and know the elements that have to be 
contended in the proclamation of the pure gospel in the city of 
Washington, know that wonders have been accomplished. The city 
is a veritable hot bed of prejudice against the people who call 
themselves "Christians only" and it has been the hardest work to 
get a hearing by anyone who declares a full gospel. A gospel of 
platitudes and glittering generalities is the kind wanted in Wash- 
ington. The writer of this article has "fought with beasts at Ephe- 
sus" for almost two years, planting the seed and tending the crop 
to be ready for the harvest time, and the work has been strenuous 
indeed. He has been compelled to remain quiet while he was being 
misrepresented in every part of the city, and have remarks credited 
to him that he never had dreamed of making, and which only a 
man bereft of his senses would make. 

The task, said Cunningham, 

has been ... to get a hearing. This was one great difficulty, but 
during the past two years that has been overcome and the church is 
filled at every service especially in the evening by men and women 



48 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



who have listened and learned the way of salvation. All the while 
the guns of sectarian prejudice have been hammering away. . . . 
Bro. E. B. Barnes of Noblesville, Indiana, was called in to hold a 
meeting. He proved himself the very man to do the work, and do 
it effectually. He is as true to the plea as the needle to the pole. He 
preaches no emasculated gospel, has no compromises to offer, and 
his challenge rings out boldly to all the world to contradict him if 
it can be done. 60 



Barnes, like Cunningham, had faced sectarian opposition in 
Washington. He, too, was "misquoted and misrepresented, credited 
with saying things he never dreamed of saying, and the ignorant are 
peddling them throughout the city." He said, 



The church is awake to the reality of what it has to face, and will 
be ready hereafter to meet all sorts of opposition. So long as all is 
at peace on the inside of the Washington church they will march 
forward to victory. Bro. Barnes has left a host of friends behind 
him here. . . . The results at Washington were 57 additions, 27 
baptisms, among which there were but a few children, several 
young married couples and one aged woman. 61 



This episode, and Cunningham's public expression of frustration 
and anger at the sectarian character of the community, is the only 
example to be found in the records of the Washington church. Here 
is the wonder, for even in the early days of the twentieth century, 
when denominational leaders around the country and around the 
world were beginning to find new and creative ways to work to- 
gether, local feelings were often raw, sarcastic, and self-serving. 
While Disciples and other denominations were about to create the 
Federal Council of Churches (established in 1908), churches in 
Washington and most other communities would look upon a success- 
ful revival in another denomination as a threat to their own. And 
many churches had reason to feel this way, for there were evangelists 
who would focus on proselytizing — "stealing" — members from 
other denominations. Such fears, if not actions, appear to have been 
present in Washington. 

During Cunningham's ministry in Washington he became a 
leader among Disciples at the State Convention. In 1905 he served 
on the Temperance Committee which brought a resolution to the 
Convention calling upon Disciples to resist the sale and use of alco- 



Seeking an Identity 49 



holic beverages. This was at the high point of the Prohibition Move- 
ment, and just four years before Prohibition would become state law 
in North Carolina. He also gave a major address before the Conven- 
tion on "A Model Church." He reminded the churches that reform 
movements throughout Christian history have failed when they lost 
interest in mission work. "All Christians must be missionaries, if 
preaching of the Gospel is to be made a success." Also, effective 
churches are self-disciplined, remembering that "liberty and license 
have been confused. It must be understood that these two are not the 
same." 62 

That same year Washington reported 237 members and a con- 
tribution of seventy-five dollars for foreign missions, third in the 
state. Support of state and home missions was at a much more mod- 
est level. The next year, 1906, the church claimed 278 members, and 
they ranked second in the state on American missions, and first in 
support of state missions. 63 

At the 1906 Convention Cunningham reported as chair of the 
Evangelizing Committee, and urged the State Missionary Society to 
begin new churches only after careful studies indicated a high prob- 
ability of success. Simply by pointing out a community without a 
Disciples church an effective speaker could raise a Convention au- 
dience to a fever-pitch of commitment to building a new congrega- 
tion. But experience showed far more was required than enthusiasm 
and emotion. Careful planning, consideration of other denomina- 
tions already present, and support by a core group was virtually es- 
sential to a successful church planting. The Convention responded to 
Cunningham's prudent leadership, and after only one year of service 
in North Carolina elected him President of the State Board. He was 
also elected to the Board of Trustees of Atlantic Christian College. 64 

At the 1907 State Convention, presided over by Albert B. Cun- 
ningham, the Washington church was shown to be third in the state 
in support of Atlantic Christian College, and the local Christian 
Woman's Board of Missions chapter was second in the state. Cun- 
ningham reported to the Convention on a significant shortage of min- 
isters and of churches large enough to support a preacher. He claimed 
that on any given Sunday there were 150 empty pulpits, and only 
eight churches in the state had a full-time minister. 65 

Soon after the 1907 Convention Cunningham accepted a call to 
move to Wilson and take up the position of State Secretary, the cen- 
tral ministerial position for the Disciples in North Carolina. He left 



50 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



Washington a stronger church, and brought to the state considerable 
organizational and leadership skills. 

1 George Hinton Crumpler, "As I Remember," Gospel Light (Novem- 
ber 1941); see also Hilda A. Bowen, "A Large Family," manuscript mem- 
oirs in Church Files; Biographical and Pension Fund files, Disciples of 
Christ Historical Society. 

2 C. R. Miller, Letter to the editor, Christian-Evangelist (August 8, 
1895), p. 509. 

3 John J. Harper, "The Washington Work," Watch Tower (December 
15, 1895): 1. 

4 "Gleanings from the Field," Watch Tower (December 1, 1895): 8; 
Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society; George Hinton 
Crumpler, "As I Remember." 

5 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 
1896, p. 6. 

6 Ibid. 

7 Ibid., p. 9. 

8 Ida Withers Harrison, History of the Christian Woman's Board of 
Missions (n.p.: n.p., n.d.), pp. 99-102. 

9 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 
1896, p. 13; 1886, p. 4; 1890, p. 5. The reference is probably to Popular 
Hymns Revised for the Work and Worship of the Church-Sunday School, 
compiled by C. C. Cline (Covington, KY: Guide Printing and Publishing 
Co., 1883, 1885). 

10 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 

1896, p. 13. 

11 Ibid., statistical entries. 

12 Malcolmson Pittman, "North Carolina News," Christian Standard 
(January 16, 1897), p. 91. 

13 Watch Tower (March 1, 1897), p. 8; George Hinton Crumpler, "As 
I Remember." 

14 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 

1897, pp. 11-12; 1898, pp. 12-13; Christian Endeavor is reported to be a 
regular part of the Sunday activities by mid- April, with evening meetings at 
seven in the evening, Evening Messenger (April 17, 1897), p. 1. 

15 Malcolmson Pittman, "North Carolina News." 

16 George Hinton Crumpler, "As I Remember"; Minutes of the North 
Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 1898, pp. 29-31; 1899, pp. 
20-21. 



Seeking an Identity 51 



17 In the Pension Fund files at the Disciples of Christ Historical Soci- 
ety, Miller is listed as having served Washington in 1895. By 1932 he had 
apparently aligned himself with the Independent faction. G. H. Crumpler 
says that Miller followed Harper, but he could not remember anything about 
him. He said that Miller was succeeded by MacNamara, and then Pittman. 
"As I Remember"; George Voiers Moore, Centennial Directory of the Col- 
lege of the Bible (Lexington Theological Seminary) (Lexington, KY: College 
of the Bible, 1965. 

18 Obituary, Christian Standard (1931), p. 885. 

19 Ibid. 

20 Hilda A. Bowen, "Memoirs of a Little Church No Longer There," 
in 75th Anniversary 1891-1966, First Christian Church, Washington, North 
Carolina (Washington, NC: First Christian Church, 1966), p. [9]; George 
Hinton Crumpler, "As I Remember." 

21 Washington Progress (October 11, 18, 25, 1900). 

22 Washington Progress (November 8, 1900); Joseph D. Waters, Letter 
to the Editor, Gospel Light (November 1941); North Carolina Christian 
(April 1962).. 

23 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 
1900, 1901, 1902; Record Book 1, p. 1 (Record Book 1, and all succeeding 
books of minutes of the Official Board will be referred to as RB plus the 
book number. Page numbers will be given when available, dates of meetings 
will be given when pagination is not present.) 

24 RB 1, pp. 1, 2, 299. 

25 Ibid., passim. 

26 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 
1902. 

27 Hilda A. Bowen, "A Large Family." 

28 RB 1, pp. 3, 11-12; Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Histor- 
ical Society; H. C. Bowen, Watch Tower (February 5, 1904). 

29 H. C. Bowen, Watch Tower (February 5, 1904). 

30 Merritt Owen, "The Week of Prayer," Watch Tower (January 29, 
1904), p. 3. 

31 Ibid, p. 11. 

32 Ibid., pp. 14, 16-17. 

33 Ibid., p. 21. 

34 Ibid., pp. 81, 86-87. 

35 Ibid., pp. 37, 39, 57. 

36 Ibid., p. 20. 

37 Ibid., pp. 8-9, 47; Daily Messenger (February 12, 1906). 



52 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



38 RB 1, pp. 15-17, 19. 

39 Ibid., p. 20, 26-27. 

40 "Washington Meeting," Watch Tower (July 1, 1904). 

41 RB 1, p. 6. 

42 Merritt Owen, "Notes on the March Offering in the Washington 
Church," Watch Tower (March 18, 1904). 

43 RB 1, pp. 13-14. 

44 S. K. Ingalls, "Tobacco and Religion," Watch Tower (April 28, 
1905), p. 16. 

45 Merritt Owen, "Youthful Vigor," Watch Tower (April 15, 1904). 

46 Ibid. 

47 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 

1904, pp. 16-17, 27, 29. 

48 Ibid., pp. 4, 8, 30. 

49 Watch Tower (April 28, 1905), p. 8; (May 6, 1904); (June 16, 1905), 

p. 6. 

50 RB 1, pp. 31, 35; Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical 
Society. 

51 George Hinton Crumpler, "As I Remember"; "Notes from the Cor- 
responding Secretary," Carolina Evangel (May 9, 1907), p. 3; RB 1, pp. 
55-57. 

52 Daily Messenger (February 12, 1906). 

53 RB 1, p. 86. 

54 Ibid., pp. 51, 53, 55, 58. 

55 Ibid., pp. 64-65. 

56 Ibid., pp. 70-71, 78, 81-84. 

57 "Miss Tesh in Washington," Carolina Evangel (March 28, 1907), 
p. 6; "Easter at Washington," Ibid. (April 11, 1907), p. 5. 

58 "Challenge Accepted," Carolina Evangel (May 23, 1907), p. 4. 

59 "The Washington Meeting," Carolina Evangel (June 20, 1907), p. 
4; "The Washington Meeting as Seen by a Lac [sic, read Lay] Member," 
Carolina Evangel (June 27, 1907), p. 3; Hilda A. Bowen, "Memoirs of a 
Little Church No Longer There." 

60 A. B. Cunningham, "Great Washington Meeting," Carolina Evan- 
gel (July 11, 1907). 

61 Ibid. 

62 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 

1905, pp. 4-5. 



Seeking an Identity 53 



63 Ibid., p. 4; Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary 
Convention, 1906, p. 19. 

64 Ibid., pp. 9-12. 

65 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 
1907, pp. 48, 58-59. 



Chapter Four 

Maturing in Ministry 



The first four years of the life of First Christian Church had been 
exciting, growing times, followed by a period of rapid change and 
upheaval, with very brief ministries and little stability. The period 
from 1900 to 1908 also saw three relatively brief ministries, but they 
were characterized by strong leaders in the pulpit and pew. The next 
decade continued on that solid base, and saw the congregation ma- 
ture and provide significant ministry for the community. Having said 
that, the first year after the departure of A. B. Cunningham was dif- 
ficult on the church. 

First they had to deal with ministerial candidates who were less 
than scrupulous. Ministers came out of the woodwork to serve this 
strong and growing church, ministers with no commitment to the 
church beyond the congregation. But the lay leadership saw through 
their offers, and made it clear that only "legitimate" ministers of the 
Disciples would be considered. 

The Carolina Evangel reported on the challenges facing the con- 
gregation, and their successful handling of the situation: 

The preacher who is at logger-heads with the Constitution of the 
State Convention and flies off at a tangent when he fails to have 
things his own way, will be one of the lost sheep of the house of 
Israel. 

The church at Washington has already settled the cases of at 
least two such preachers during the four month[s] that followed the 
Convention. These men were willing to receive an invitation and 
take the Washington pulpit and the good salary attaching, and 
were receptive candidates to it, but the good sense of the Wash- 
ington official Board stepped in and said "Not So. You are a mem- 
ber of the Convention, yet you are in practice opposing the work 
of the State Board, set up at the Convention's bidding. We are a 
co-operating church and no one can preach for us who is not in full 
sympathy and co-operating with the Convention and what is or- 



55 



56 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



dered done at the last Convention." And these brethren turned 
sadly away. 

The Evangel commends the action of the Washington church 
in this matter an [sic, read and] hopes it will point the way to every 
other church in the State. Better far do like Washington, do with- 
out until a man who is loyal to every interest of the church can be 
found. 1 

While it is possible that this represents an encounter with a cou- 
ple of renegade preachers with no accountability to anyone other than 
their own conscience — or bank account — it is more likely that this 
story has to do with an attempt by some "non-instrumental" or 
"anti" preachers to take over the Washington church. 

During the four decades after the Civil War, the Disciples un- 
derwent a heart- wrenching division of fellowship. The schism had its 
roots in the earliest history of the Disciples, when some responded to 
the message of "Restoration" while others paid greater heed to the 
issues of Christian unity and valuing of freedom and diversity of 
opinion. So long as Alexander Campbell was alive, most Disciples 
deferred to his leadership even when they disagreed with him. Camp- 
bell's death in 1866 made conflict easier. And the Civil War stirred 
bitter bile. 

Many Disciples, especially in Tennessee, suffered greatly on ac- 
count of the war. During occupation they experienced the first waves 
of northern Christians coming to the rescue of the "heathen" South- 
erners. The response by the southern Disciples was less than posi- 
tive. In the years after the war, insult was added to injury as more 
and more northern Disciples churches, unharmed by the war and en- 
joying the economic boom of the latter 1860s, began adding deco- 
rative touches to their churches, even as they turned their simple 
farmsteads into the homes of the Victorian era: Chandeliers replaced 
oil lanterns, wooden floors covered dirt, carpets covered wood. Pews 
became finely finished furniture. And most important, pianos and 
organs were introduced into worship. 

Actually, the first known Disciples church with a musical instru- 
ment was that of the Midway, Kentucky, church in 1849, several 
years before the war. But this was not wide-spread until after the 
Civil War. Also, churches that had lived with the voluntary or part- 
time services of preachers now found themselves able to afford full- 
time ministers. Ministers were seeking professional education in the 
colleges and, beginning in 1865, the seminaries of the Disciples. 



Maturing in Ministry 57 



Many of those southern churches (and a few others) that contin- 
ued to suffer deprivation, even starvation, amongst their members, 
looked upon the affluence of the northern churches with disdain and 
disgust. Falling back on the ideals of Restorationism, they charged 
that musical instruments and paid ministers had no basis in the New 
Testament, and thus were a betrayal of the Campbell-Stone Restora- 
tion movement. 

They also found reason to oppose missionary societies. They 
were not to be found in the New Testament, and the one national mis- 
sionary society of the Disciples, the American Christian Missionary 
Society (founded 1849), had taken a public stand in support of the 
Union cause in the midst of the Civil War. 

The result of these points of opposition led the strict Restora- 
tionists further and further from the Disciples midstream. They were 
characterized by their opposition to a number of issues and came to 
be called, disparagingly, the "antis," anti this and anti that. By the 
1890s a clear division among the Disciples could be seen. In the 
1906 Federal Religious Census, the "antis" asked to be listed sep- 
arately from the Disciples as Churches of Christ. Because many Dis- 
ciples still used the designation "Church of Christ," it became 
common practice to refer to the "antis" as the "Non-instrumental" 
Churches of Christ, thus focusing on their opposition to musical in- 
struments in worship. They were strong in the mountains of North 
Carolina, but never had much strength in the Piedmont or East. 
Wherever they went, they attacked the cooperative mission programs 
of the national, state, and district organizations. And so, the refer- 
ence in the Carolina Evangel to preachers opposed to the State Con- 
vention may well have been to Church of Christ preachers seeking a 
way to influence and win over a young but vigorous congregation in 
the heart of North Carolina Disciples territory. 2 

The church finally found a minister in the person of R. V. Omer 
who began on May 3, 1908. He was from a family of ministers: His 
brother Lewis Moses Omer (and his wife, Birdie Farrar) was a mis- 
sionary in Monterey, Mexico, for the Christian Woman's Board of 
Missions. In fact, the brother Lewis so overshadowed R. V. that one 
of the Washington newspapers welcomed the new minister to the 
Christian Church by saying, "L. M. Omer has accepted a call to the 
Christian Church here, and has arrived and taken charge. He is a 
pleasant gentleman and we extend to him a welcome in our midst." 3 
Remembering his name would certainly have been a good welcome. 



58 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



After six months between ministers the congregation was glad to 
have someone filling the pulpit on a regular basis. George Hinton 
Crumpler remembered him as "a good preacher, sweet and lovable 
and kind." Soon after arriving he was asked to preach at a Roanoke 
District Union meeting, and he was well received: 

Bro. R. V. Omer . . . gave an able sermon on Saturday night. Bro. 
Omer is a bright soul, with a sunshiny disposition, and is calcu- 
lated to make friends wherever he goes. We understand that he is 
rapidly coming into favor with his congregation at Washington. 4 

Perhaps in response to the frustration that A. B. Cunningham 
had experienced in the religious community of Washington, Omer 
went to work on an ecumenical agenda. He brought before the Of- 
ficial Board a proposal to ask the other churches of Washington to 
cooperate on a union meeting by which he meant a cooperative re- 
vival. In late November or early December of 1908 the event took 
place, and Omer was delighted with the results: 

We had a fine union meeting in Washington and since then have 
had nine additions to our congregation, five by confession and four 
by letter. The union meeting was held by the pastors of the Meth- 
odist, Presbyterian, Baptist and Christian churches, and much 
good was done for the town. About 85 names were added to the 
different churches. 5 

This was perhaps the first of what has become a regular feature of the 
Washington religious community, cooperative worship, work, and 
projects of many types. 

The women of the Washington congregation continued to pro- 
vide steady support for the life of the church and its witness to the 
larger world. In March of 1908, while the pulpit committee was 
searching for a new minister, Mrs. R. B. Jackson wrote the Carolina 
Evangel to say that the Ladies Aid Society and the CWBM continued 
to be at work in the church: "We ladies cannot afford to take a rest 
as the brethren do sometimes." If there is a bit of an edge in this 
comment, it reflects the increasing sense of aggravation by the 
women towards the sometimes lethargic attitude of the men of the 
church. Just before Mrs. Jackson's comments appeared in the Evan- 
gel, another Tar Heel Disciple addressed the issue at the state level: 



Maturing in Ministry 59 



The women of the CWBM not only do State work through their 
organization, but also as individuals they contribute to the work 
done by the State Board. As individual members of churches the 
women of the CWBM have an equal right as the men, and doubt- 
less contribute liberally to the general work of evangelizing the 
State. In this they have the advantage of the men, who are not reg- 
ular contributors through the CWBM. We are in our rights, there- 
fore, to claim an equal voice, as church members, with men in the 
management of the State work. But we have been content to do the 
paying and let the men control the work. And we have been grate- 
ful when we have received any consideration from our brothers for 
our own organization, the CWBM. We will continue to be grate- 
ful. If it does the men any good to feel that they are running things 
we want to help them feel good. But when, in order to run things, 
the men begin to act unjustly towards the CWBM, we believe we 
have the right to enter a protest. And when our protest is not re- 
ceived cordially and we are roughly handled with words, our timid 
natures may cause us to shrink and we may shed a few tears, as 
women have the right to do, but we will not change our opinion on 
that account. 6 

The Christian Education program during R. V. Omer's ministry 
moved forward, with J. B. Latham as Sunday School Superinten- 
dent. T. H. Davis taught a class for young girls, and the Baracca 
class for young men was taught by John N. Paul, also a young mem- 
ber of the church. The future for the church's education efforts was 
ensured through a strong Teacher's Training Class, with fifteen to 
twenty students taught by the minister. The church was able to show- 
case its efforts in education when the State Sunday School Conven- 
tion was held at the church in July of 1908. 7 

R. V. Omer's ministry was a brief period of maintenance, al- 
most an interim ministry, during which the membership remained 
stable at 278, and few new programs were introduced. For reasons 
unknown, R. V. Omer left the church around the end of December, 
1908. A called Board meeting on January 3, 1909, began the process 
of calling a new minister. 8 

Meanwhile, Dr. Jesse C. Caldwell, President of Atlantic Chris- 
tian College, "aggreed [sic] to serve each Lord's day till a regular 
pastor could be secured, and he would also interview for same." As 
it turned out, Caldwell was able to be present at the church as his 
schedule permitted, and he sent ministerial students from the college 



60 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



in his place whenever necessary. The response from the church was 
most positive, as indicated in a letter to the Carolina Evangel from 
J. B. Latham: 

For several months the church here has been without a regular pas- 
tor. During that period our pulpit was supplied by Brother Cald- 
well and several of the young men from A. C. College, which we 
enjoyed very much, and if these young men are a fair specimen of 
the work that Brother Caldwell is doing, then A. C. College must 
be the grandest institution in our beloved State, and should enlist 
the sympathy and cooperation of every Disciples in it. 9 

On March 7, 1909, the Board met with R. V. Hope, and rec- 
ommended him to the congregation. Robert Virgil Hope came to 
Washington from Columbus, Mississippi, where he had developed a 
reputation as an excellent young minister. He studied at the College 
of the Bible 1899-1902 and was ordained in 1895. The first evalu- 
ations of Hope described him as "a splendid man, good preacher, 
and hard worker . . . and his work here has begun with flattering 
prospects. . . . Just keep your eye on Washington. There is going to 
be something doing here." 10 

R. V. Hope remained in Washington for over six years, the long- 
est pastorate to that point in the church's history. While in Washing- 
ton, Hope courted and married a member of the church. Billie Lee 
Freeman and Robert Hope were married in the church on March 10, 
1915, with Dr. Jesse Caldwell of Atlantic Christian College perform- 
ing the ceremony. This cemented Hope's ties with Washington, and 
he would return to Washington to retire some twenty years later. 1 1 

Hope left a careful record of his ministerial activities while in 
Washington, including many of his sermon titles and scriptural texts. 
An examination of these reveal a concern for the nature of the church 
and the Christian life. Some sermons were clearly evangelistic in 
character. His sermons occasionally had lively titles, including 
"Thunder of Silent Fidelity," "Carrion and Vultures," and "Four 
Sad Evils of Washington." Hilda Bowen recalled that sometimes 
while preaching Hope's voice would weaken, and he would indicate 
to the organist that he was having problems. She would "start play- 
ing and the congregation would always sing, 'The Way of the Cross 
Leads Home.' " 12 

While the Board constantly had to struggle to meet the ordinary 
financial needs of the church, the congregation was willing to re- 



Maturing in Ministry 61 



spond to the possibility of a new church building. Growth in the wor- 
shipping community and even more in the Sunday School led the 
Board in the summer of 1912 to begin to explore options on property 
for a new church. The catalyst for actually moving on the project 
seems to have been a sermon by R. V. Hope. Many years later he 
recalled the sermon in which he laid out the needs of the church and 
urged the members to respond. At the end of the service a young 
man, Eddie Wilkerson, came to the front of the church and emptied 
his pockets for a new church. The sight of Wilkerson, confined to a 
wheel chair, giving so completely of what he had moved the congre- 
gation. "The amount was not large but others caught the spirit of 
liberality on the part of this crippled boy, and in a few weeks a con- 
siderable sum was pledged and paid." One source says that the 
amount given by Wilkerson was sixty-seven cents. The next year a lot 
was purchased on the corner of Second and Respess, along with the 
house located on the property. The house was given to Reverend 
Hope for use as a parsonage. 13 

A significant change in the worship life of the church occurred 
during the ministry of R. V. Hope. During the late nineteenth cen- 
tury medical researchers began to achieve rapid advances in their 
knowledge of communicable diseases and how to prevent them. Sur- 
geons learned to scrub before operating, and to sterilize their instru- 
ments. Water and sewer systems came under the control of sanitary 
engineers. Common drinking cups in public places were abandoned. 
And in many churches, across many denominations, the practice of 
receiving communion wine by drinking from a common cup was re- 
placed by sanitary little individual "shot glass" communion cups. 
This change came to Washington in 1913. 14 When the use of grape 
juice instead of wine came is not documented. It is likely that the 
shift to individual cups for the wine or juice came before a common 
loaf was given up. Although more healthy and sanitary, especially in 
an age before immunization was available for the most common 
communicable diseases, the use of individual communion cups and 
the loss of a common loaf also changed the character and power of 
the experience of the Lord's Supper. 

Throughout the history of the Disciples, the use of one loaf and 
one cup, or one flagon filling several cups, was itself a symbol of the 
unity of the church. Alexander Campbell and Barton Warren Stone 
both spoke of the importance of the people participating in the uni- 
fying symbols of the body of Christ. And, as Campbell taught, it was 



62 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



important for the people to see the breaking of the bread as a sign of 
that body which was broken for the salvation of humankind. In ad- 
dition, by going to individual cups and pre-cut bread or crackers, the 
sense of participating with the rest of the congregation, communing 
together with the Risen Lord along with one's brothers and sisters in 
the faith was largely lost. In this the First Christian Church shared in 
a change that affected most Disciples churches, and most other Prot- 
estant denominations, except for the Episcopalians and Lutherans. 

Well into Hope's ministry the congregation again participated in 
a union meeting with the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist 
churches in town. Unlike the union revival during the ministry of 
R. V. Omer, this was a series of Sunday evening services which 
would move from church to church during late July and August, or 
sometimes just through the month of August. These were not revival 
services, but union services of worship. It also happened that they 
took place when some of the ministers happened to be on vacation, 
and thus allowed the churches to help cover some of their worship 
needs without having to pay for an outside speaker. The union sum- 
mer worship services continued for many years, with the Disciples 
participating as long as any other church was willing to cooperate. 15 

Regular revivals, usually twice a year, continued to be a part of 
the church program. During the Hope ministry these occurred most 
often in early summer and in the fall. Reverend Hope later remem- 
bered one year in which he preached the summer revival, with forty- 
seven additions to the church. Then in the fall the C. L. Ogan 
Evangelistic Company came to the church and put on a revival re- 
sulting in eighty-eight people joining the church, and 1,000 attend- 
ing Sunday School during the campaign. The church was so pleased 
with the efforts of their preacher, that they gave him a bonus of $50 
in gold. He immediately turned it over to the building fund. 16 The 
use of a professional evangelistic company was not unusual. There 
were many such companies and professional evangelists traveling the 
country in those days. They began to lose favor in the years following 
the first World War, perhaps due to the pall of skepticism and sus- 
picion that spread across the country concerning flamboyant revival 
preachers. 

In addition to providing financial help to the church, the women 
came to participate more in church governance during the period 
1910-1915. In 1910 there is a reference to a Sister Woolard (probably 
the wife of W. D. Woolard) as present in the Board meeting. Her 



Maturing in Ministry 63 



name is followed immediately by that of J. R. Meekins in parenthe- 
ses. Since Meekins was Clerk, or secretary, with responsibility for 
keeping Board minutes, it is possible that Sister Woolard had been 
brought in to assist Meekins with keeping minutes. This is supported 
further by the clear change to a female handwriting style shortly 
prior to this reference. 17 

In 1912 Minnie Latham Hudnell, along with S. F. Freeman and 
R. V. Hope, was chosen to represent the church as a delegate to the 
State Convention in Farmville. Soon after, Etta Nunn preached at the 
church. A year and a half later both the CWBM and the Ladies Aid 
Society were asked to give reports on their finances to the Board. 
(The Sunday School superintendent was also asked to report.) 18 In 
isolation, these events do not amount to much. But put together a 
pattern of growing recognition and influence by the women of the 
church can be seen. This would continue for the next several 
decades. 

A change in the structure of the church school program took 
place under the leadership of R. V. Hope. The Front Rank program 
used materials published by the Standard Publishing Company, and 
used a graded system and carefully delineated leadership process. 
There were six departments: Cradle Roll, Primary, Junior, Interme- 
diate, Adult, and Home. Each department would have a superinten- 
dent or secretary. There would be an annual promotion day, teacher 
training classes, and organized classes for youth over the age of six- 
teen. There were to be weekly or monthly meetings of teachers. Each 
department was to have an officer in charge of the missions compo- 
nent of the program, with regular offerings for the State Bible School 
work, the American Christian Missionary Society, and other foreign 
missions and benevolent activities. Washington entered the Front 
Rank program in late 1910, when R. V. Hope was serving as State 
Superintendent of Bible Schools. The result was an educational pro- 
gram that paid careful attention to the learning level of the students, 
and integrated Bible study with the current mission and life of the 
church. The basic structure would be followed for many decades to 
come. It was about this time that Sunday School moved from after- 
noon to Sunday morning. 19 

During Hope's ministry the church maintained its active partic- 
ipation in the State Convention and North Carolina Christian Mis- 
sionary Society. In 1909 Hope led devotions in the Convention, and 
was chosen State Superintendent of the Bible Schools. He was to 



64 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



visit each Sunday School in the state while performing his ministry 
in Washington. 20 

The State Convention returned to Washington in 1910. The host 
congregation was recognized for "unexcelled hospitality" and ap- 
preciation was expressed for "the courtesies of other religious bodies 
of the city in tendering their houses of worship for our use." Hope 
was singled out "for his untiring zeal and notable efficiency in look- 
ing after the comfort of the delegates." Among the speakers at the 
Convention were two former pastors, J. D. Waters from Harrisburg, 
Pennsylvania, and J. C. Caldwell, President of Atlantic Christian 
(former interim minister). Other speakers included Archibald 
McLean, President of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society, and 
Robert M. Hopkins, Bible School Secretary of the American Chris- 
tian Missionary Society. 21 

R. V. Hope's work as State Superintendent of Bible Schools 
was hailed as highly effective, and he was asked to serve another 
term. He was to collect annual statistics from all the churches, hold 
"such institutes and rallies, and [attend] Union meetings and con- 
ventions as it is possible for him to do." He was also to write a reg- 
ular Bible School column in the Carolina Evangel, and work "in 
hearty accord with the Bible School department of the American 
Christian Missionary Society.' ' In addition the Convention sought to 
have the Southeast states work with the ACMS in employing a Bible 
School specialist who would spend a month a year in each of the 
states. This position was referred to in the official minutes of the 
Convention as a "B. S. Specialist." Presumably a number of qual- 
ified candidates were found. 22 

Several members of the church gave leadership to the State 
church during Hope's ministry. S. F. Freeman continued on the 
Board of Trustees of Atlantic Christian College, Hope served on the 
Ordination Committee, the State Board for three years, the Temper- 
ance Committee, and remained as Superintendent of the Bible 
Schools throughout the period of his ministry in Washington. T. W. 
Phillips served on the Temperance Committee, during which time 
that Committee continued to press for full enforcement of temper- 
ance laws, and to "make the United States a saloon-less nation by 
1920." 23 

R. V. Hope's six years in Washington were busy and full, and 
reflect the leadership of an able and inspiring minister. The church 
grew, reaching 316 members by the time Hope left for Rocky Mount, 



Maturing in Ministry 65 



became better organized, especially in its education program, began 
the move to buy land and build a more adequate facility, and saw the 
women of the church participating in governance of the church. 24 

It had been six years since the church had gone through the 
sometimes frustrating process of finding a new minister. After three 
months of looking, the Board voted on January 2, 1916, to call 
Charles Marion McEntyre as minister. McEntyre was pastor of the 
Christian Church in East Chattanooga, Tennessee. He had studied at 
the College of the Bible 1909-1912, and was a native of Alabama. 25 

McEntyre arrived on February 1 , 1916, and was found to be one 
minister who truly enjoyed calling on the membership. McEntyre 
and his wife 



would start walking in the morning to visit and wherever they 
would happen to be at lunch time they would eat with that family. 
After lunch they would visit and stop for supper with another fam- 
ily. In his May [1916] report he made "76 visits — 4 funerals, 4 
marriages — had no members sick, so as can not be up." The next 
month he made 92 calls. His gas bill was $1.50 and his light bill 
sixty-seven cents. No wonder! ... He was a large man and wore 
the longest coats. You could truly say he was a man "of the cloth." 



It was also recalled that worship services lasted two hours under 
McEntyre, from 11:00 until 1:00. 26 

The changing role of women in the life of the church continued 
to develop during McEntyre's ministry. In the fall of 1916 a nomi- 
nating committee for church officers was appointed, and they were 
instructed to nominate deaconesses as well as deacons and elders. 
There is no discussion of the office of deaconess as something new, 
so it is possible that there had been some women serving in the di- 
aconate prior to this time. The nominating committee included two 
women. The officers chosen that fall included not only the first group 
of deaconesses of record (Mrs. S. F. Freeman, Mrs. C. H. Powell, 
Mrs. M. F. Jefferson, Mrs. O. M. Winfield, Mrs. F. A. Lilly, Mrs. 
A. H. Wilkinson, Mrs. F. P. Whitley), but also the first woman of- 
ficer of the church. Nellie M. Winfield was elected as Church Clerk. 
Two women of the church were also chosen as delegates to the State 
Convention, along with two men of the congregation. 27 

Also in the fall of 1916, Rosalie Freeman Ricks was employed as 
church pianist for five dollars per month. She would serve for many 



66 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



years to come. Earlier that same year the women of the church choir 
had asked permission of the Board to sell the old piano and organ 
and buy a new piano. The Board approved and sent the matter to the 
church for final approval. There was concern in the Board that noth- 
ing be done on this without the approval of the church "as there 
might be some objection by the older members of the church." There 
are fewer issues in a church around which there will be more heat 
generated than matters of music and musical instruments. 28 

A momentous change in the future of the church began to take 
shape in the fall of 1916 when the Board decided that the lot at Sec- 
ond and Respess on which the parsonage stood would not be ade- 
quate for the future of the church. An opportunity arose to buy a 
large plot of land on the corner of Second and Academy, immedi- 
ately across from the church. It was reported at the December, 1916, 
meeting of the Board that the old parsonage had been sold for 
$4,250, and the new property had been purchased for $3,750. It was 
agreed that a new parsonage would be built on the Academy Street 
lot, and plans were made to give serious attention to the matter of 
fund raising. 29 

During the ministry of McEntyre the church maintained its po- 
sition as one of the leaders in support of state and denominational 
missions. In 1917 the church was fourth in the state for outreach giv- 
ing, while the Bible School in Washington was first in the state for 
missions funds raised. At the 1918 State Convention — limited to one 
day due to the influenza epidemic that would last another year and 
kill millions around the world — it was reported that the church was 
third in the state in missions support. Washington was also cited for 
support of the Emergency Drive of the Men and Millions Movement. 
By its conclusion the Disciples had raised about eight million dollars, 
the most given to any Protestant financial campaign to that point in 
American history. 30 

This Emergency Drive was a wartime effort of the Men and Mil- 
lions Movement which had begun in 1913 prior to the outbreak of the 
First World War. It is most curious, with the involvement of many 
citizens of Washington in the war effort, that there is not one refer- 
ence to the war in the minutes of the Official Board of the church. 
This was a war in which the churches across America were vitally 
involved, energetically so in support of the allies. In fact, the war 
fever that seemed to capture many congregations and denominations 



Maturing in Ministry 67 



in the United States would lead to a period of cynicism and deep re- 
gret on the part of Christian leaders in the decades following the war. 
The war had been seen in idealistic terms by Americans and their 
churches. "The War to End all Wars," "The War to make the World 
Safe for Democracy," had been a self-righteous cause, one fought, 
so the people thought, with purity of motive. When the war ended, 
and word leaked out about American and British companies profi- 
teering on the war; when the savagery of the two Battles of the 
Somme and the use of poison gas became known; when the peace 
conference broke down into power politics and self-serving maneu- 
vers, the American people felt betrayed, used, and abused. The fact 
that the church had so thoroughly supported the war effort was now 
seen as a maligning of the purposes of the church founded by the 
Prince of Peace. The response of the church to the Second World 
War would be greatly tempered by this experience. 

It is interesting that nothing official was done by the Board in 
regard to the war, though it is most likely that worship services and 
all other meetings of the church were occasions to express concern 
for loved ones in fields of battle and for the overall allied cause. 

There was conflict, however, within the church and among the 
members of the church. In a series of entries in the Board minutes, 
beginning in January of 1918, a story of conflict emerges that would 
continue until the early summer of 1919. It is possible that there were 
actually several different disputes involved in these references, most 
of which are vague. The conflict clearly centered on a dispute be- 
tween T. W. Phillips and E. H. Jefferson, and may have involved a 
difference of opinion over either the building program or the minis- 
ter, or both. The Board on several occasions appointed a committee 
to visit both men in order to seek a reconciliation. As things came to 
a head in January of 1919, many officers, elders, and deacons re- 
signed, or attempted to resign. E. H. Jefferson submitted an apology 
to the Board saying, 

Bro. Freeman — I wish you would state to the Official Board of 
church that I am willing to go before it and express my regret, and 
ask the pardon of the church or any member thereof for the exhi- 
bition of my temper and feeling on the Sunday of the election of 
Bro. McEntire [sic]. I wish to further state that I have no ill feeling 
against anyone, and hope and prey [sic] no one has none [sic] 
against me. I am yours for the upbuilding of the church. 31 



68 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



By May the issue was still not resolved, even though McEntyre 
was no longer on the scene. The Board obviously tried to limit the 
damage done in the dispute by passing a Board resolution saying that 
they would not allow "discussion of church business before the 
church and the public." This failed, and was probably seen as an at- 
tempt to silence inquiry and dissent. In June of 1919, the Board ad- 
mitted that "this rule was broken by some who did and some who 
did not understand the resolution," so "the present Board recom- 
mends that the church revoke said act together with all unpleasant- 
ness that seemingly grew out from said act; and that the church 
extend full fellowship to all affected by said act." They did ask that 
henceforth all business should be brought before the Board first, and 
then, if necessary, it could be taken before the congregation for "a 
limited discussion .' ' 32 

McEntyre left about the first of February. The church was in se- 
rious turmoil. Despite the fact that the membership had reached 469, 
new property was owned, and a brand new parsonage had been built, 
there was a sense of things not being right. The community of the 
church, that place where people are supposed to be "known for their 
love for one another," was anything but. A healer was needed, a pas- 
tor who could live, breathe, and teach love. That person was 
found. 33 

1 "The Preacher, the Church, and Co-operation," Carolina Evangel 
(February 27, 1908), p. 4. 

2 The story of the Non-instrumental Churches of Christ is told in sev- 
eral places, among them Lester G. McAllister and William E. Tucker, Jour- 
ney in Faith: A History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (St. 
Louis: Bethany Press, 1975); David Edwin Harrell, A Social History of the 
Disciples of Christ, 2 vols. (Nashville: Disciples of Christ Historical Society, 
1966; Atlanta: Publication Systems, 1973). 

3 Washington Progress (May 7, 1908). 

4 George Hinton Crumpler, "As I Remember," Gospel Light (Novem- 
ber 1941); Carolina Evangel (June 11, 1908). 

5 RB 1, p. 92; Carolina Evangel (December 17, 1908). 

6 Carolina Evangel (March 12, 1908; February 2, 1908). 

7 Ibid., (December 17, 1908; July 16, 1908). 

8 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 
1908, p. 43. 

9 RB 1, p. 96; J. B. Latham, Letter to the editor, Carolina Evangel 
(June 17, 1909). 



Maturing in Ministry 69 



10 RB 1 , pp. 96-97; Yearbook of the Christian Church (Disciples of 
Christ) in North Carolina for 1916, p. 16; J. B. Latham, Letter to the editor, 
Carolina Evangel (June 17, 1909). 

11 Record Book of Robert Virgil Hope. 

12 Ibid., pp. 100-128; Hilda A. Bowen, "Memoirs of a Little Church 
No Longer There," in 75th Anniversary 1891-1966, First Christian Church, 
Washington, North Carolina (Washington, NC: First Christian Church, 
1966), p. [8].. 

13 RB 1, pp. 113, 115, 117; R. V. Hope, "As I knew It," Gospel Light 
(November 1941); Margaret Winfield, "Seventy Five Years of History," in 
75th Anniversary 1891-1966, First Christian Church, Washington, North 
Carolina (Washington, NC: First Christian Church, 1966), p. [3]; RB 1, p. 
156. 

14 RB 1, p. 120. 

15 Ibid., p. 157. 

16 R. V. Hope, "As I knew it." 

17 RB 1, pp. 104-105. 

18 Ibid., 116, 152; Record Book of Robert Virgil Hope, p. 117. 

19 Carolina Evangel (January 15, 1911; December 15, 1910). 

20 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 

1909, pp. 2, 9. 

21 Carolina Evangel (December 1, 1910). 

22 Ibid.; Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Conven- 
tion, 1910, pp. 8-9. 

23 Minutes of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, 

1910, p. 7; 1911, pp. 10, 15; 1912, pp. 2, 12; 1914, p. 8; 1915, p. 9. 

24 Ibid., 1915, p. 28. 

25 Ibid., p. 161. 

26 Hilda Bowen, "Memoirs," p. [8]. 

27 RB 2, pp. 174-175, 107. 

28 Ibid., pp. 177, 165. 

29 Ibid., pp. 178-180. 

30 Yearbook of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of North 
Carolina for 1918, pp. 20, 38-39; Yearbook . . . for 1919, pp. 3, 25, 50. 

31 RB 3„ January 1, 6, 9, 12, 19, 26, 29, February 16, March 16, 30, 
1919. 

32 Ibid., May 14, June 6, 8, 1919. 

33 Yearbook of the Christian Church, 1919. 



Chapter Five 

Beloved Apostle: The Bagby Years 



Occasionally in the life of a church there appears a person who 
by virtue of vision and compassion shapes the church into a new 
form, a form that encompasses the values of that significant person. 
Such was the impact of Richard Bagby on the life of First Christian 
Church of Washington. 

Richard Bagby was born in 1867 in Virginia. He attended Mil- 
ligan College and graduated from Bethany College (founded by Al- 
exander Campbell) in 1893. He did graduate study at the University 
of Virginia. He served churches in Maryland, Virginia, and Penn- 
sylvania before coming to First Christian of Wilson, North Carolina, 
in 1912. When the World War erupted, he volunteered to work with 
the troops in France under the auspices of the YMCA, a primary 
source of ministry to the military, a supplement to the military chap- 
laincy. Bagby held the position of District Secretary of Religious 
Work through which he oversaw the ministry provided by many 
YMCA workers among the troops. He had just returned to the States 
from France when he received an invitation from the Washington 
church to visit and consider the church as a place to minister. 1 

Richard Bagby 's wife, Daisy Price Bagby, had served as Dean of 
Women at Atlantic Christian College while her husband was in 
France. She was highly esteemed for the way in which she worked 
with and provided support for Mr. Bagby's ministry as well as her 
own involvement in the life of the community. 2 

The earliest reference in the minutes to Bagby are dated June 27, 
1919, and indicate that he had been in the church for at least a few 
days. The June 6 Board minutes speak of the failure of the pulpit 
committee to attract another candidate, and no mention is made then 
of Bagby. But the Washington Daily News reported on June 14 that 
he had arrived. He was installed on June 22, with other churches of 
the city participating in the service of welcome, along with the Pres- 
ident of Atlantic Christian College. 3 



71 



72 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



Bagby and his wife came to Washington at a time of crisis in the 
life of the church. A decision had to be made: Was this going to be 
a church that would live out the promise of its early years, and be a 
leader in the community and in the state in support of the ministry 
and mission of the Gospel, or was this going to be a church that con- 
stantly undercut whatever good it might try to do with constant bick- 
ering and infighting over issues of power and control? There is some 
indication that the conflict in the congregation during the months 
prior to the arrival of Bagby had also had to do with questions of 
belief, and whether or not persons could be leaders in the church if 
their ideas were somewhat different from those of others. An article 
in the Christian-Evangelist, then the national weekly magazine of the 
Disciples, indicated that Bagby came into a situation in which mem- 
bers were fighting over doctrine: 



The fact has been demonstrated that when the people of the Lord 
got busy about something practical they will soon lose some of the 
over-importance of theoretical distinctions and that practical love 
is better than imaginary soundness of doctrine. It is not possible to 
grow in grace and spiritual comprehension when people are over 
anxious about the heterodoxy of another. Plucking doctrinal motes 
out of our brother's eye is an occupation that diminishes our power 
of spiritual vision and reduces to tiny proportions our supply of 
grace and truth. 4 



It was to be the legacy of Richard Bagby to lead the church out of 
conflict and petty power plays to the high road of service and 
witness. 

Bagby brought strong love to the Washington church. He taught 
and lived love. It was not mere sentiment, nor even affection, though 
he was clearly a person of sentiment and affection. His love was 
tough enough to take on serious issues and difficult people. At the 
time of his death, friends in Virginia recalled: 



Brother Bagby, as we tenderly called him, was a good man, with 
all of the significance of the word. Goodness means God-likeness. 
He was like the God revealed by Jesus. In all of his 8 1 years no one 
dared to impugn his moral or spiritual integrity. He loved with his 
whole being. Early in life he learned that the gospel of Jesus Christ 
was the good news of God's love for the whole world, and that the 



Beloved Apostle: The Bagby Years 73 



sublime privilege of the minister of that gospel was to teach people 
to love one another. He was an ambassador of love. 

When he entered a home, he "brought the benediction of peace. His 
going left the encouragement of hope." 5 

While his influence on the church was great — even to the point 
of members naming children after him — he was not regarded by his 
hearers as a particularly strong preacher. "He only had one sermon, 
and that was on love," is a typical comment. His effectiveness in the 
pulpit, however, was based less on what he said and more on the per- 
son who said it: "His sermons were simple and brief, but how we 
were thrilled as we heard, looking into a face reflecting the light of 
God. . . . His preaching made God real and it made Jesus Christ 
man's savior." 6 

In the first two years of his ministry, Richard (often accompa- 
nied by Daisy) would walk all across town, visiting his members. Oc- 
casionally he would be found walking miles out into the country to 
visit those who lived there. When the church learned of his long 
walks, the congregation purchased a car for him, and Daisy became 
his chauffeur. 7 

One of the most significant events in the life of the congregation 
during the ministry of Richard Bagby, and indeed, in the life of the 
church, was the construction of the current church building. Just a 
few weeks after arriving in Washington, Bagby encouraged the 
Board to appoint a committee to seek an architect to draw up plans 
for a new church. With that committee at work, in the fall of 1919 
another committee was named "to rally the congregation on the 
question of building a new church." 8 

By March of 1920, Reverend Bagby was encouraged to contact 
the Roanoke District Union "asking for their prayerful and financial 
aid in building our church." There is no indication that this appeal 
met with success. Two weeks later both Athens Chapel and Old Ford 
Churches were considered as sources of funds, but apparently again 
with no positive results. Efforts within the congregation led to only 
modest results. In July of 1920, the Building Committee reported a 
fund total of $1,975. 9 

A turning point was reached in the late fall of 1920 when Bagby 
"concluded his sermon on the need of a larger church building at the 
regular Sunday night service." The minister stepped out of the pul- 
pit, and "an enthusiastic congregation remained in a meeting for the 



74 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



discussion of a building program. A building committee composed of 
H. G. Winfield, chairman, J. W. Oden, E. L. Roebuck, J. B. Res- 
pass and J. R Jackson was elected." A finance committee was also 
appointed. Church members quickly added to the funds already in 
hand, but that still totalled only some $3,500. This was not enough 
to start a building such as they dreamed about. The church was com- 
posed mostly of people of modest means. Bagby remembered later 
that "there were many critics, who when they saw the plans for the 
new building, shook their heads and said, 'You can't do it.' But the 
members in spirit said as Nehemiah did of old, 'I am doing a great 
work, so that I cannot come down.'" 10 

Some of the church leaders realized that the task ahead had to be 
broken down into a manageable and imaginable size. 

The congregation was challenged to buy and place 100,000 bricks 
on the lot and building would begin. The response was phenome- 
nal. Individual members bought bricks from one to two, three and 
five thousand bricks each. J. T. Hardison was immediately em- 
ployed to superintend construction. 11 

A ground-breaking ceremony was held on Tuesday afternoon, 
May 24, 1921. Bricks placed on the building site served as a plat- 
form for the ceremonies. In a steady rain, and after "inthusiastic" 
[sic] speeches, the oldest living charter member of the church, T. W. 
Phillips, turned the first spade of dirt, and the project was on. The 
first 100,000 bricks allowed the building to reach ground level. In- 
dividuals and groups purchased more bricks, and construction 
continued. 12 

Paying for the church proved to be an exercise in creativity. In 
addition to the brick-buying scheme (which included purchasing 
bricks made of paper blocks for the price of a real brick), a special 
offering was taken up at each Wednesday evening prayer meeting. 
The Sunday School offering on the first Sunday of each month was 
given over to the building fund. Children put on shows and charged 
admission, and sold tobacco which they had scavenged from that 
which had dropped off of trucks or had been begged from farmers. 
Margaret Buck remembers selling rides in her father's Model T Ford. 
Hilda Bowen recalled that she and Olive Harrison made enough Mar- 
tha Washington chocolate candy "to fill the town's water tank. We 
always sold all we had," with the proceeds going towards the build- 
ing. On one occasion 



Beloved Apostle: The Bagby Years 75 



we had a party for the young people to make money for the church. 
I went and they sold tickets for the prettiest girl there. The prize 
was a homemade cake. I got the prize. And my boyfriend paid $60 
for tickets he bought. Everytime anyone else bought a ticket he 
bought another one. ... A few sold for $8 a piece. 13 

Sixty dollars was quite a commitment for a young man in the early 
twenties. 

No group was more helpful than the Ladies Aid Society. They 
raised money by holding "silver teas." These were social hours with 
cookies and tea, and all who attended were to bring some "silver" 
for the new church. The Building Fund Committee learned that 
whenever funds ran out, they could turn to the Ladies Aid and they 
would be forthcoming. H. G. Winfield recalled, "When we did not 
know where the next payroll was coming from we could call on this 
organization for a few dollars most anytime. . . . Yes, if it had not 
been for this good loyal organization, the going would have been a 
great deal harder.' ' 14 

There were times when Saturday would arrive and workers ex- 
pecting their checks, but no money in the bank. The checks would be 
given out, an appeal would be made at Sunday School and church, 
and enough would be raised to get them through another week. The 
Century Club was another scheme. By contributing 100 pennies per 
week a person could belong to the club. They raised over seven thou- 
sand dollars in this way. 15 

As the building progressed, there was a major push to install the 
permanent roof so as to protect the interior work. "We had a picture 
of the roof drawn on a black board and we sold this roof to the mem- 
bers by the square, some bought one square, some two, some three, 
four or five, through this channel we raised enough money to pay for 
the roof." Each roof square was priced at twenty-five dollars. Win- 
dows were by the pane the same way, and then pews and other fur- 
niture. E. Leon Roebuck later pondered this mode of paying for a 
building, and advised: "Make your appeals for definite quantities of 
material instead of dollars, and that insofar as is possible 'pay as you 
build' and avoid a large church debt." The reason is simple: "Re- 
sponse from occupants of old and uncomfortable pews is much better 
from those sitting in new pews.' ' 16 

By February of 1923 the building was far enough along to allow 
the Board to meet in the study (now the parlor), and soon thereafter 



76 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 

in the church basement. "As soon as the basement floor was ce- 
mented and the temporary roof on the church, the congregation met 
in the new building. It has been said that the big room looked like a 
warehouse since none of the rooms had been partitioned." Members 
brought pews over from the old church. Despite the appearance of 
the place, Bagby recalled, "Oh, how happy we were to be able to 
worship in our new building. For some years we worshipped there 
and never in my life did I attend such sweet services." The move to 
the new church took place around May 8, 1923, when the Board 
made reference to meeting there. The first wedding in the structure 
was in the basement, and united Robert Nash Cooper and Etta Lee 
Campbell. 17 

The finishing off of rooms continued with creative efforts. Sun- 
day School classes, particularly the Young Men's Class, finished 
rooms with their own labor and funds which they raised, ostensibly 
for their own use, only to turn them over to other classes. Paul B. 
Ellis later recalled that organizer and teacher of the Young Men's 
Class, W. R. Roberson, was a capable motivator of youth. He had 
agreed to teach the class only if the members would double the size 
of the class within the first few weeks of its initiation about 1920. As 
the church was being built, the Young Men's Class' 

first big project was to finish a room, which later was the pastor's 
study, in the new building, which was nearing completion, for a 
classroom. This was done by each member paying so much each 
week on a "young Men's Classroom Fund." We had not been in 
our new room long before Mr. Roberson called our attention to the 
fact that the ladies were having to meet in the unfinished base- 
ment. We gave them our room and moved into the basement and 
started again a "classroom fund," to complete the room the class 
now uses. In addition to our "classroom fund" a "dire need fund" 
was started to take care of any "dire need" which was brought to 
the attention of the class. . . . Every Sunday morning there was a 
report of anyone, whether a church member or not, who was in 
need and a committee was named to see that the need was met. I'll 
be eternally thankful to Mr. Roberson for his teaching that the only 
way to truly serve God was in serving one's fellow man, and for 
his interpretation of Christian business ethics, to quote him, "Any 
business deal that is not mutually profitable, or advantageous is 
crooked, have nothing to do with it." 18 

But since significant funds were needed to bring the building 
project to a conclusion, professional fund-raiser and evangelist, 



Beloved Apostle: The Bagby Years 77 



George L. Snively, was brought in the fall of 1925 for a special cam- 
paign. Meanwhile, the credit of the congregation was good, and as 
required, additional monies were borrowed. 19 

The new church was dedicated on December 5, 1926, in a day 
filled with celebration. George Snively was invited back to be the 
primary speaker, and Josephus Daniels, native of Washington, editor 
of the Raleigh News and Observer and former Secretary of the Navy 
during World War I spoke in the afternoon on "World Peace." At- 
tendance was reported to have been over a thousand at each of three 
services. Richard Bagby reported that while Snively had urged the 
church to plan to feed those in attendance with a simple meal of 

baked beans and sandwiches, ... the ladies of the church, while 
appreciating his suggestion, decided that Beaufort County baked 
chicken and boiled country ham were more in keeping with their 
taste and Southern tradition. From the way in which the hundreds 
devoured the food, we believe they were well satisfied with the 
decision of the sisters. There was a plenty for both meals, and the 
next day several sisters were kept busy taking what was left to the 
poor of the city. 

On dedication day some $43,000 in cash and pledges were raised, 
allowing the church to purchase a pipe organ, carpet the sanctuary, 
and provide funds for missions while also paying off a substantial 
portion of the building debt. 20 

As the new church building came to completion, the old church 
building which had been the scene of the life of the congregation 
since the earliest days of the congregation had to be dealt with. In 
1924 the church bell was given to the church at Hunter's Bridge. The 
old building itself was given to a Black congregation and moved to 
West Fifth Street, where it is still serving the worship needs of a 
congregation. 21 

While so much of the life and focus of the church centered 
around the building project during the 1921-1926 period, the life of 
the congregation continued in other areas. The minister was inten- 
tionally kept off of the various committees related to the building. As 
Bagby later said, the pastor "had his very important work to do, 
which was to preach with all his might a gospel of love, and to love 
especially those who were inclined to kick out of harness." 22 

The governance system of the church evolved in significant ways 
under the leadership and encouragement of Bagby. In 1919 the Board 
established a number of regular committees, anticipating the "func- 



78 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



tional committee" system that would come a number of years later. 23 
This had the effect of regularizing and systematizing the work of the 
Board, and meant that issues could be anticipated and planned for, 
not just reacted to with an ad hoc committee. 

The Board also found itself willing to discipline itself. In 192 1 , 
the Board voted to inquire of all absent members who were not oth- 
erwise accounted for to give their excuse for being absent. In 1924, 
Board Chair R. S. Silverthorne urged some of the committees to get 
to work. At one meeting he "very kindly but frankly called on the 
finance Committee to put on more effort," and the secretary re- 
ported that at the August meeting Silverthorne "jacked up the pulpit 
committee," which had been slow in finding someone to lead a 
revival. 24 

In 1927 Richard Bagby led the Board to elect "a representative 
from each of the women's societies of the church to serve on the of- 
ficial board, namely the Ladies Aid, Woman's Missionary Society, 
and the Young Ladies Mission Circle." On May 8 the congregation, 
on a motion by Bagby, elected Edith Sparrow, Minnie Latham Hud- 
nell, and Ellen Parker to serve on the Board. A number of years ear- 
lier the women's organizations had been asked to report to the 
Board, but had not been given membership and vote. For several 
years, particularly during the building campaign, women had served 
as church clerk and as treasurers of various funds, thus participating 
in and reporting to the Board. But this was the first regular election 
of women to the church Board. By and large deaconesses had hith- 
erto not attended Board meetings. It was not long before these new 
Board members were called upon, along with male members of the 
Board, to offer opening and closing prayers at meetings. This was a 
sign of acceptance of the women by the men. 25 

In 1930 the Board was challenged to change another practice 
that had been in place since the beginning of the church. Elders and 
deacons, once elected, remained on the Board, re-nominated every 
three years, unless they asked to leave the Board or were removed 
from the Board. Nominations always came from the Board itself. At 
the October 5, 1930, meeting of the Board Dr. Leroy Satterthwaite 
proposed that the nominating committee be appointed "from the 
church at large" rather than the Board. In a most unusual fashion, 
Board minutes revealed a conflict: 

Bro. Satterthwaite also very severely criticized our present meth- 
ods of nominating ourselves, and also other business that is 



Beloved Apostle: The Bagby Years 79 



brought before the church, as he felt that the members at large 
would not express themselves for fear of critisism [sic] and rebuke. 
He also read a very lengthy address in which he critisized [sic] the 
way our present pension system was carried by the church. As he 
did not feel the congregation was given a fair chance to express 
themselves, and he felt sure from the observations that he and oth- 
ers had made that others would have voted against a pension sys- 
tem if they had not been afraid of rebuke and embarrassment. 26 



More was obviously at stake than just the method of electing 
Board members, but just what objections Dr. Satterthwaite had 
against, for example, participation in the denominational pension 
system is never made clear. Indeed, after this meeting there is no fur- 
ther record relating to this event, with the one exception of a com- 
ment in the February, 1931, meeting of the Board. A committee was 
appointed to find a way to help the church recommend other mem- 
bers who might be considered for the office of elder. But it would be 
another twenty years before Dr. Satterthwaite's concerns about the 
election of the Board would be fully reflected in a change of 
procedure. 27 

Music was an important part of the worship life of the congre- 
gation. The choir was given a prominent position in the arrangement 
of the sanctuary in the old church, and even more prominent in the 
new church where they were placed in a tiered choir loft behind the 
pulpit, facing the congregation. They sat below a rank of balanced 
large organ pipes, giving a sense of the sounds of voices uniting with 
the notes moving upward from the pipes. 

Shortly before the arrival of Richard Bagby, the choir was com- 
posed of Rosalie Freeman Ricks (pianist and organist), Addie Free- 
man Singleton, Edith Campbell Sparrow, Nellie May Winfield, 
Mary Edmond Winfield, Daisy McEntyre (Bagby 's predecessor's 
wife), Lillie Freeman Hope, Essie Phillips Davis, Pamela Singleton 
Davis, Pearl Gautier Lilley, Gladys Whitley, Ethel Elliott Gattis, Ve- 
rona Elliott Edwards, Etta Lee Campbell Cooper, Kathleen Jackson 
Copp, Hilda Alligood Bowen, Milton Troy Jefferson, and Claude 
Ricks. 28 

During the early 1920s Mark Swingley conducted the choir for 
a salary of ten dollars a month. Rosalie Ricks remained as organist 
until 1934. She was replaced in June, 1934, by Kathleen Ellis, with 
Vivian Cutler as assistant organist. At the May 11, 1937, meeting of 



80 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



the Board, Vivian Cutler was given the position of organist. With the 
exception of interruptions for child-bearing, Vivian Cutler (Weath- 
erly) has served faithfully at the organ console for more than fifty- 
four years. 29 

Richard Bagby, despite his years, entered into his ministry with 
a special commitment to the youth and the education program of the 
church. Margaret Buck recalls his offering a prize to the Vacation 
Bible School student who could best outline his sermon. The min- 
ister also encouraged adult learning, and apparently taught a Monday 
night Bible class during the mid- 1920s. 30 

An important development in the educational program and the 
general life of the church occurred with the formation of a new class 
for young women on March 12, 1930, the Willing Workers Class. 
With a motto of "Service Above Self," the class entered a program 
of study under teacher Olive Wicks Harrison and active participation 
in the outreach concerns of the congregation under class President 
Doris Hornsby. 31 

Meanwhile, the Workers' Council and the Sunday School Super- 
intendent began in the 1930s to provide occasional workshops and 
classes for leadership training and Sunday School teacher training. In 
addition, they took advantage of programs offered through denomi- 
national resources so as to strengthen the educational program of the 
church. 32 

In 1934 three young women of the church were sent to the North 
Carolina Disciples of Christ Young People's Conference at Von- 
clarken, N. C. Callaree Jarvis Champion, Elizabeth Silverthorne, 
and Margaret Leggett Buck returned with ideas for a new form of 
youth organization in the church, the Conference Club. They quickly 
determined that it would not be wise to have this compete with 
Christian Endeavor, and so the two groups were linked as the Chris- 
tian Endeavor Conference Club. 33 

Another sign of growth in the life of the church was the approval 
in 1926 of a Boy Scout Troop to be sponsored by the church. It was 
three years before the proposal was fully implemented with the es- 
tablishment of Troop 21 , Boy Scouts of America. Harry S. Gurganus 
was the first Scout Master. He was succeeded by M. W. Humphrey, 
and then R. E. King assumed leadership. King became a leader in 
scouting in the region, and added the Eagle Scout program to the 
troop. From the beginning it was clear that a boy could participate in 
the troop without being a member of the congregation, but the scouts 



Beloved Apostle: The Bagby Years 81 




New church building, completed 1926 



entered fully into the life of the church, often volunteering to assist 
in any way they could, from clean-up details to years of service in 
parking and traffic control. 34 

When Richard Bagby arrived in Washington in 1919, the United 
States was flexing its new found economic muscle in the wake of the 
First World War. The war had brought economic and human devas- 
tation to much of the industrial base of Western Europe, and the 
American business community found itself able to provide, at sig- 
nificant profit, the things necessary for European recovery. This con- 
tributed to an economic expansion that was unparalleled in American 
history. Expansion fueled confidence that growth would continue, 
and that confidence led to speculation in many areas of the economy. 
A series of bad harvests in the American heartland in the mid- 1920s 
caused a few to doubt the rosy forecasts, but most American inves- 
tors kept up their efforts to borrow and borrow more with the expec- 
tation of even greater profits to come. 

The crash that has been symbolized by the collapse of the stock 
market in October of 1929 led to enormous hardship throughout the 
nation. Eastern North Carolina suffered the double misfortune of be- 
ing an agriculturally based economy in a time of rapidly falling ag- 
ricultural prices, and the area had continued to experience deep and 



82 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 

broad poverty throughout the rural areas even when the rest of the 
nation had prospered. The poor became poorer. First Christian 
Church lived through this period in pain with most of the people of 
the community. This was a church that had already committed itself 
to expressing concern for the poor. The Great Depression put the 
faith and values of the congregation to the test. 

Numerous references to concern for the poor of the community 
are found in the record prior to the arrival of Richard and Daisy 
Bagby in 1919. But with their appearance on the scene, the care 
and attention given to those in need became more organized and fo- 
cused. In September of 1919 a Social and Sick Committee was ap- 
proved. Composed of four women and one man, the committee was 
"to look out for new comers and the sick of the church, all sick to be 
reported to chairm. of Sick Committee." In December of that same 
year Bagby moved that the Board appoint a Relief Committee, with 
F. A. Lilley in charge. At the same meeting the Board authorized 
the treasurer to reimburse Reverend Bagby two dollars for a load of 
wood he had bought for a poor woman. Thereafter the minutes fre- 
quently reveal incidents of benevolent concern expressed by the 
congregation. 35 

When the Depression hit, the church was ready to respond. Dur- 
ing the 1930s a committee, often referred to as the Charity or Poor 
Fund Committee, would report on its activities to the Board each 
month, but with few details in the minutes. 

The role of Richard Bagby in response to the Depression has 
achieved legendary proportions. Glenn Weaver tells a story about a 
time during his ministry when a man drove up to the church in a 
large and expensive car, and came in to see him. The man spoke of 
his plight during the Depression. He was a seventeen year old ap- 
prentice electrician in the Norfolk shipyards when he was laid off. 
He and his young wife returned to Washington where they had fam- 
ily, but no one was able to help. His wife was but thirteen, and preg- 
nant. With no place to stay, they were allowed to live in a chicken 
coop. After the baby was born, in such surroundings, with no relief 
in sight, the young parents decided to commit suicide, beginning 
with the murder of the baby. They made their peace with their situ- 
ation one night, with plans to sleep till morning, and then do the 
deed. Early the next morning, before they had stirred, there was a 
knock on the side of their crumbling shelter. Richard Bagby spoke 
gently, saying, "I heard about you and I have come to help." He 



Beloved Apostle: The Bagby Years 83 



brought them some food, listened to their story of despair. He said, 
"I think I can get you a job." The man said to Glenn Weaver that the 
church, and Richard Bagby, had saved their lives. Soon after, the fear 
of war brought work back to the shipyards, and he was able to return 
and do well. He and his wife ultimately had six children, all of whom 
were college graduates by the time he told this story. He had become 
a wealthy man. He handed Weaver a large check, and asked only that 
it be used to help others as he and his family had been helped. 36 

The church began to feel the impact of the economic downturn 
in the middle of 1930, when the church treasurer was authorized to 
borrow funds to meet basic church needs over the summer. Bagby 
read a letter to the Board indicating his desire to be of assistance: 

Owing to the present financial depression, I am writing to suggest 
that the Board consider the matter of reducing my salary. I believe 
that by a reduction of my salary, the financial problems that now 
face the church will [be] lightened. Any reduction which the 
church sees fit to make, will be agreeable to me. 

The Board discussed the matter, and said, "we sincerely appreciate 
his suggestion to have his salary reduced, but as we hope this finan- 
cial depression will not last long ... we hope that it will not be 
neccessary [sic] to do so." Bagby apparently raised the issue again at 
the next Board meeting, with the same response by the Board. The 
minister even went before the congregation, asking during a worship 
service that his salary be cut. 37 

By the summer of 193 1 , the Board did respond to yet another 
request by Reverend Bagby to reduce his salary, though the reduction 
was modest, from $2,400 to $2,280 per year. At the end of 1932, the 
Board went through the same procedure, with Bagby asking that his 
salary be reduced, and the Board reluctantly complying, this time 
going down to $2,000. Six months later the salary was lowered to 
$1,800, again at the minister's request. 38 The oral tradition of the 
church remembers this series of events with the additional detail: At 
one meeting when the Board initially refused to lower Bagby 's sal- 
ary, he threatened to resign if they did not do so immediately. Pre- 
sumably Bagby wanted to make the point that he, like many others in 
the community, was suffering the consequences of the Depression. 
Otherwise he could have simply increased his own giving to the 
church with the effect of reducing his salary and increasing the 
church funds. 



84 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



In December of 1931 Bagby was notified by the Pension Fund 
that his Pension Fund payment in the form of a check for $5.47 was 
being returned because his bank had closed. Of the three banks in 
Washington at the beginning of the Depression, only one, the Bank 
of Washington, remained open and survived the period without 
closing. 39 

Despite the difficulties of the times, the members continued to 
support the program of the church. In November of 1933, after the 
every member canvass for pledges for the coming year, the Board 
reported that they had received more pledges than ever before, and 
that pledges for missions were running ahead of the previous year, 
and that the amount need for the church's current expenses was only 
ten dollars short of projected needs. Nevertheless, early in 1934 the 
church had difficulty meeting its bank payments, and a special drive 
to catch up on interest owed had to be undertaken. By the end of 
1936 there was a shortfall of some $190, not a satisfactory situation, 
but it was not a threat to the stability or reputation of the church. 40 

It may be that the first sign that the Depression was easing can 
be found in the Board minutes of August 11, 1936, when "the char- 
ity committee reported no calls for several weeks." 41 The overall ef- 
fects of the Depression would not end until the economic impact of 
the Second World War changed the world. 

During the years of Bagby's ministry the church continued to 
take the occasional stand on contemporary social and political issues. 
In 1921 the Board wrote State Senator Lindsey Warren and State 
Representative W. M. Butt, asking them to support the bill before 
the legislature for the establishment of a board to censor motion 
pictures. 42 

In 1927 there was a stir over allegations of the teaching of ev- 
olution and biblical modernism at Atlantic Christian College. A 
committee was sent to visit the chair of the College Board of Trustees 
and present the following resolution: "We the official board of the 
1st Christian Church do hereby in regular meeting assembled agree 
to withdraw all financial and moral support from Atlantic Christian 
College until said college ceases to teach Evolution, Modernism and 
the Book of Genesis is nothing but Babylonian Tradition." They sent 
a copy of the resolution to each trustee, and indicated that they ex- 
pected a response within thirty days. 43 

The college, in the midst of a major fund drive, answered 
quickly. Five representatives from the college met with the Board to 



Beloved Apostle: The Bagby Years 85 



"discuss with us the teachings of the College, and the necessity of 
the campaign to raise the $300,000 to carry on the work there." The 
concerns expressed in Washington had been raised at the State Con- 
vention, and a report to the Convention was shared and discussed by 
John Waters of the College. The visit of the five had the desired ef- 
fect. The Board, led by Richard Bagby, expressed appreciation to the 
representatives for visiting Washington. The next month a special 
committee appointed to look into the situation reported to the Board, 
but with no indication as to the nature of that report. The Board must 
have been satisfied, however, as the church continued to be a major 
supporter of the College in the years to come, including a pledge of 
$1,000 in 1929. 44 The questions of biblical interpretation would 
soon rise again, and not just in regard to what was taught at ACC. 

When Prohibition was repealed, the church reacted with letters 
of protest to legislators, and maintained support for the Prohibition 
movement. In 1934 the church hosted a county wide Prohibition 
meeting sponsored by the Beaufort County WCTU (Women's Chris- 
tian Temperance Union). But this was a losing battle. North Carolina 
moved to allow the sale of "light" wine and beer as soon as the eigh- 
teenth amendment was repealed in 1933, and by 1935 "the first 
County operated liquor store was opened" in Wilson. 45 Neverthe- 
less, despite the loss of several major battles, the church would con- 
tinue to fight the war of Prohibition. 

Evangelistic activity continued apace throughout the ministry of 
Richard Bagby. In the late fall and early winter of 1923, the church 
cooperated with the other major churches of Washington (although 
without being a co-sponsor) in a revival led by the Hamm-Ramsey 
Evangelistic Company. This was soon after the church had started 
meeting in the basement of the new church, and the combination of 
an effective revival and a new church building added about one hun- 
dred new members to the church in just a brief period. One of the 
results of this revival was the organization of the Beaufort County 
Christian Laymen's Federation. This was an ecumenical Christian 
men's organization, and several of the members of First Christian 
participated as officers and leaders, including E. Leon Roebuck and 
E. T. Harris. 46 

Another community revival initiated by the Old Ford Church of 
Christ took place in the spring of 1929, led by Charles Reign 
Scoville. Scoville was a Disciple, and had become one of the most 
popular revivalists of the period among all denominations. He was a 



86 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



person who commanded attention, and was an exceptionally creative 
speaker. 47 

Scoville's method included elaborately detailed planning and or- 
ganization. And unlike many revivalists of the day, including the 
very popular Billy Sunday, "he did not turn his crusades into emo- 
tional binges." He once said, "When a person at a revival meeting 
sits and wrings his hands and rolls his eyes and groans and sighs like 
a dying calf, that's not religion, that's foolishness.'" 48 

But he was colorful. In one of his sermons in Washington, he 
warned, "Don't wait until the hearse backs up to your door to take 
your wife to the cemetery before you come to Christ.'" And again, 
"'If the church is good enough to be buried in, it is good enough to 
be married in.'" 49 

The revival was held in the Webb tobacco warehouse on Pierce 
Street, and a makeshift baptistry was installed for the event. Scoville 
also preached in both First Christian Church and the Old Ford 
Church of Christ during the course of the extended meeting. On one 
evening he was reported to have "hurled a broadside with his heavi- 
est artillery. . . . With his long arm raised acusingly [sic], his foot 
pounding the wooden platform like a triphammer, his eyes flashing 
fire and snapping with intense feeling," observers found words in- 
adequate to describe the experience. 50 

On one Saturday evening a choir made up of 570 children from 
Washington churches sang. Throughout the revival, Sunday School 
classes from First Christian attended and sat together. The month 
long meeting ended on May 19, with 258 converts divided among the 
churches, and with thirty-three pledging their lives to Christian min- 
istry. A number of the converts joined the Christian Church. 51 

The North Carolina Christian Missionary Society and the State 
Convention maintained their important place in the life of the First 
Christian Church of Washington. At the 1919 Convention, Richard 
Bagby was one of the featured speakers, and he served on the nom- 
inations committee. Mary Peele from Washington was named to the 
executive committee of the North Carolina Christian Woman's 
Board of Missions. The reports on support of missions showed that 
the Washington church was ranked third in total outreach giving in 
the state, and the Sunday School offerings for missions from Wash- 
ington were second in the state. 52 

That same Convention saw the Temperance Committee expand 
its range of interest as it challenged the ministers of the state to en- 
courage their members not only "to exercise temperance in the soft 



Beloved Apostle: The Bagby Years 87 



drink habit," but also to "warn them against the excessive use of 
tobacco, the indiscreet attendance upon moving picture shows which 
do not give proper moral or religious education, and all other indul- 
gences and/or participations which become not a true follower of the 
Lord Jesus Christ." 53 

At the 1920 State Convention Daisy Price Bagby served as Pres- 
ident of the North Carolina Christian Women's Missionary Society, 
the successor to the Christian Woman's Board of Missions. Richard 
Bagby was again a speaker at the Convention, and he served on the 
important Committee on Examination and Ordination. He was also 
appointed along with a few other ministers to travel the state raising 
funds in behalf of Atlantic Christian College, the children's home in 
Atlanta (Southern Christian Home), and the Home for the Aged in 
Jacksonville, Florida (now the Florida Christian Home). Washington 
ranked third in outreach support in the state, while the Sunday 
Schools at First Christian had moved into a tie for first in their sup- 
port of state missions. 54 

The 1922 State Convention found Richard Bagby elected to 
the State Board of Directors. He was also asked to be a trustee of 
the Anti-Saloon League of North Carolina, and also be an alternate 
delegate to the Nominating Committee for the International 
Convention. 55 

The Washington church served as host to state-wide Disciples 
meetings. In 1922 the congregation hosted the North Carolina An- 
nual Minister's meeting, and in 1928 the State Convention returned 
to the shores of the Pamlico. The records of that Convention show 
Bagby as still serving on the State Board of Directors of the North 
Carolina Christian Missionary Society. E. Leon Roebuck was ap- 
pointed to a state committee on religious education. The Convention 
took note of the fine new facilities in Washington, saying that the 
building had been built "through the heroic efforts of Brother Bagby 
and his church, evidencing the progressive spirit manifest every- 
where throughout this great Old North State." Statistics presented at 
the Convention showed the Washington church still among the lead- 
ers in support of State and denominational outreach, ranking fourth 
behind Kinston, Wilson, and Greenville. 56 

State Convention records for 1928 indicated that the Washington 
church was providing leadership for the Roanoke District. W. O. El- 
lis is listed as Secretary of the District Convention, and Jane L. Ran- 
dolph was recognized for her work as Secretary for the District 
Christian Women's Missionary Society. What is interesting here is 



88 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



that just three years before this Convention, the Official Board of the 
Washington church raised questions about the Roanoke District. The 
missionary committee of the Board made a special report "relative 
to the advisability of making any further donations to Roanoke Dis- 
trict Convention." There were no further comments in the minutes of 
later meetings, and no elaboration as to why the church should sep- 
arate itself from the Roanoke Convention. Members of the church 
did continue to attend and give leadership at the district level, and 
the church did provide some funds for the district thereafter. 57 It is 
likely that this was the first indication of conflict that would divide 
the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) throughout the nation, the 
state, and even the Washington congregation. That division will be 
dealt with in the next chapter. 

By the mid- 1930s Richard Bagby was in his late sixties, and the 
strain of years of service, with added burdens in those years of De- 
pression, was beginning to take its toll. In 1935 the Board gave the 
Bagbys a two month vacation, a time "for a good prolonged and 
much needed rest." A young Timothy of the congregation who had 
just finished his seminary work at Vanderbilt was called to serve the 
church during Bagby 's absence, and then continue as Assistant Min- 
ister. Samuel F. Freeman, Jr., accepted the nearly impossible task of 
being Richard Bagby 's "replacement" and the rewarding opportu- 
nity to work with the aging minister. Freeman remained for a year 
before accepting a call to the Christian Church in Winston-Salem. 58 

Freeman was replaced by another young minister, Harold Tyer of 
Bath, who had also just completed his ministerial studies at Vander- 
bilt. Tyer began in July of 1936 as Assistant Minister. He was to fill 
the pulpit while Bagby was on vacation, and then assist in the min- 
istry as needed through the summer months, particularly in educa- 
tion and calling. 59 

A few months later Richard Bagby, now sixty-nine years old, re- 
alized that even an extended vacation could not restore him to the 
level of energy required to serve the Washington congregation, and 
he announced "that he wished to be retired as pastor as soon as a 
suitable successor could be found and that same must be found not 
later than next June." In January of 1937 Bagby agreed to stay until 
the end of the year if the church would call an assistant minister. By 
May Bagby had to chastise the pulpit committee for moving too 
slowly. Harold Tyer was brought back as an Assistant Minister in 
the summer of 1937, and Bagby soon realized that the young 



Beloved Apostle: The Bagby Years 89 



man, although very young, had the gifts and graces to lead the 
congregation. 60 

With Richard Bagby's enthusiastic support, Harold Tyer was 
called to be the minister of the First Christian Church beginning De- 
cember 1, 1937. The weary Bagby decided not to wait, and brought 
his ministry to a conclusion on November 7, 1937. 61 It was a day of 
sadness and celebration. The whole community felt a sense of loss as 
this pastor to the city took his leave. But it was also a time of cele- 
bration, rejoicing in eighteen and a half years of service, of loving 
care and concern that had yielded great results. 

The Washington Daily News reported on the planned retirement 
calling Bagby a "Washington Institution, a Washington Industry, a 
part of the heart of Washington." They remembered that he had 
come to the city "as a pastor of a small congregation among whom 
were few who possessed wealth. He inspired them by his love, his 
spirit of devotion and his life of unselfish service." Although he 
would now be retired, "as long as his heart beats he will always be 
the same kind counselor, friend and spiritual advisor that he has been 
through the years." Bagby was especially appreciated for his work 
among the poor. "When there was not such a welfare organization as 
we have now he has seen to it that the hungry had bread, that warm 
clothes were given to those who might be cold and his words of en- 
couragement have been a tower of strength to those in trouble." 62 

American Legion Post 15, made up primarily of veterans of the 
Great War, had found in Richard Bagby one who had shared their 
experiences on the French battlefields, and one who had been with 
them in civilian life as a minister to those who have known the horror 
of war. One hundred strong, they marched through the streets of the 
city to the church so as to express their deep gratitude. 63 

In Richard Bagby the First Christian Church of Washington 
found one who would show them what they wanted to be, a com- 
munity of faith known by the love and care shown to all of God's 
people. While no one and no congregation ever achieves such a goal, 
under Bagby they began to move in significant ways towards that 
ideal. Their greatest tribute to Richard and Daisy Bagby has been 
their continuing drive to be the kind of church that would be proud 
to call him their pastor. 

1 Newspaper clipping from the Washington Daily News, "Church 
Scrapbook 1954-1958." 



90 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



2 Washington Daily News, Church Scrapbook, 1954-1958. 

3 RB 3, June 27, 1919; June 6, 1919; Washington Daily News (June 
14, 1919), p. 1; (June 23, 1919), p. 1. 

4 P. B. Hall, "An Astonishing Working out of Faith," Christian- 
Evangelist (July 10, 1924), p. 889. 

5 "Richard Bagby Remembered," Chesapeake Christian (September 
1948). 

6 Interview with Ethel Gattis, July 26, 1988; "Richard Bagby 
Remembered." 

7 Interview with Ethel Gattis, July 26, 1988; Interview with Harold 
Tyer, March 8, 1991. 

8 RB 3, June 27, October 10, 1919. 

9 Ibid., March 31, April 12, July 7, 1919; RB 4, p. 181. 

10 RB 6, H. G. Winfield, Program of the 50th Anniversary, attached 
to p. 21; P. B. Hall, "An Astonishing Working Out of Faith"; RB 3, Feb- 
ruary 24, 1921; Richard Bagby, "My Work in Washington," Gospel Light 
(November 1941). 

11 Margaret Winfield, "Seventy-Five Years of History," in 75th An- 
niversary 1891-1966, First Christian Church, Washington, North Carolina 
(Washington, NC: First Christian Church, 1966), pp. [3-4]. 

12 H. G. Winfield, "First Christian Church Building Program," Gos- 
pel Light (November 1941); Washington Progress (May 26, 1921); RB 4, p. 
173. 

13 Hilda A. Bowen, "A Large Family," manuscript of memoirs of 
Hilda A. Bowen, Church files, First Christian Church; Margaret Leggett 
Buck, manuscript reminiscences, Church files, First Christian Church; RB 
6, E. Ray Swindell, Program of the 50th Anniversary, attached to p. 21. 

14 Evelyn Phillips Taylor, manuscript reminiscences, Church files, 
First Christian Church; H. G. Winfield, "First Christian Church Building 
Program." 

15 H. G. Winfield, "First Christian Church Building Program." 

16 Ibid.; P. B. Hall, "An Astonishing Working Out of Faith"; E. Leon 
Roebuck, "Building Fund," Gospel Light (November 1941). 

17 RB 4, pp. 214, 218; Margaret Winfield, "Seventy five Years of His- 
tory"; Washington Daily News (August 19, 1952), p. 1; Hilda A. Bowen, 
"Memoirs of a Little Church No Longer There," in 75th Anniversary 1891- 
1966, First Christian Church, Washington, North Carolina (Washington, 
NC: First Christian Church, 1966), p. [9]; Richard Bagby, "My Work in 
Washington". 

18 Paul B. Ellis, letter to Wilbert Owens, February 10, 1979, Church 
files, First Christian Church. 



Beloved Apostle: The Bagby Years 91 



19 B. Frank Leggett, "The Bible School," Gospel Light (November 
1941); RB 4, p. 252; RB 5, p. 173. 

20 Richard Bagby, "Washington (N. C.) Dedication," Christian Stan- 
dard (January 1, 1927), p. 14; "Washington Church Dedicated," North 
Carolina Christian 1 (December 1926): 5. 

21 RB 4, p. 234; RB 5, p. 202. 

22 Richard Bagby, "My Work in Washington." 

23 RB 3, December 11, 1919. 

24 RB 4, pp. 188-189, 239-240. 

25 RB 5, pp. 191-192 and passim. 

26 Ibid., pp. 241-242; In 1929 the Board first discussed the Pension 
Fund of the Christian Church, and a Congregational meeting of February 16, 
1930, approved of participation in behalf of the minister. Ibid., pp. 228, 
233. 

27 Ibid., pp. 248-249, 270-271. 

28 Evelyn Phillips Taylor, Reminiscences. 

29 RB 4, pp. 194, 196; RB 5, pp. 20-21, 46, 63. 

30 Margaret Leggett Buck, Reminiscences; RB 4, p. 248. 

31 Fortieth Anniversary Program, Willing Workers Class, Church 
files, First Christian Church. 

32 RB 5, pp. 249, 21. 

33 Callaree Champion and Margaret Buck, "Christian Endeavor and 
Conference Club Merge," Gospel Light (November 1941). 

34 RB 5, p. 169; R. E. King, "Boy Scouts," Gospel Light (November 
1941). 

35 RB 3, September 4, December 11, 1919. 

36 Interview with Glenn Weaver, June 3, 1987. 

37 RB 5, pp. 237, 241-242; Interview with Mary Potter, July 27, 
1988. 

38 RB 5, pp. 252, 260, 9. 

39 Letter from G. F. Prewitt to Richard Bagby, December 16, 1931, 
Pension Fund files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society; Lonnie Squires, 
"The Great Depression," in Washington and the Pamlico, edited by Ursula 
Fogleman Loy and Pauline Marion Worthy (Washington, NC: Washington- 
Beaufort County Bicentennial Commission, 1976), pp. 128-129. 

40 RB 5, pp. 14, 19, 24, 41, 58. 

41 Ibid., 52. 

42 RB 3, January 16, 1921. 

43 RB 5, p. 188. 



92 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



44 Ibid., pp. 190-191, 231. 

45 Ibid., pp. 6, 34; Washington Daily News (April 30, 1934), p. 1; 
Hugh Talmage Lefler and Albert Ray Newsome, North Carolina: The His- 
tory of a Southern State (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 
1973), pp. 613-614. 

46 RB 4, p. 231; R. B. Hall, "An Astonishing Working Out of Faith"; 
Washington Daily News (January 25, 1924), p. 1. 

47 Lester G. McAllister and William E. Tucker, Journey in Faith: A 
History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (St. Louis: Bethany 
Press, 1975), pp. 326-327. 

48 Ibid. 

49 Washington Daily News (April 23, 1929), pp. 1-2. 

50 Ibid., (April 18, 1929), p. 5; (April 26, 1929), p. 6; (April 29, 
1929), p. 1. 

51 Ibid., (April 27, 1929), p. 2; (May 20, 1929), p. 1. 

52 Year Book of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of North 
Carolina for 1920, pp. 2, 3, 8, 31, 44. 

53 Ibid., pp. 8-9. 

54 Yearbook of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of North 
Carolina for 1921, pp. 2-3, 10, 20-23, 33. 

55 Yearbook of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of North 
Carolina for 1923, pp. 2, 6. 

56 North Carolina Christian 3 (June 1922): 5; Yearbook of the Chris- 
tian Church (Disciples of Christ) of North Carolina for 1929, pp. 2, 7, 40. 

57 Yearbook 1929, p. 2; RB 4, p. 256. 

58 RB 5, pp. 38, 42, 50. 

59 Ibid., p. 51. 

60 Ibid., pp. 54, 59, 63; Interview with Harold Tyer, March 8, 1991. 

61 RB 5, pp. 68-69. 

62 Washington Daily News (November 6, 1937), p. 4. 

63 Ibid., (November 2, 1937), p. 8, (November 8, 1937), p. 1. 



Chapter Six 

Conflict and Growth 



With the departure of Richard Bagby First Christian Church of 
Washington entered a period of change and uneasiness, even serious 
conflict and division. Some of what was experienced represents the 
normal process of adjustment in a congregation after a long and suc- 
cessful ministry. But the times were anything but normal. When 
Harold Tyer was called to be minister of the church in the fall of 
1937, Hitler was preparing his moves on Austria and Czechoslova- 
kia. Japan had already invaded China, and Mussolini's troops were 
finishing up their barbarous invasion of Ethiopia. The world was 
moving towards war. 

Harold Tyer came to Washington virtually as a Timothy of the 
church. He had been raised in rural Beaufort County, just west of 
Bath in the Athens Chapel community. He had studied at Atlantic 
Christian College, and then ventured to the west, to the School of 
Religion at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, a progressive ecu- 
menical seminary that was related to the Disciples through the Dis- 
ciples Foundation (later Disciples Divinity House). Here Tyer had 
received his graduate ministerial education in a context of many de- 
nominations and a faculty that was world-renowned. 

When he returned to Eastern North Carolina, the twenty-three 
year old Tyer brought with him an outstanding education that was 
then shaped under the gentle and wise tutelage of a superior parish 
minister, Richard Bagby. For one so very young, Harold Tyer was 
exceptionally well prepared for congregational service. Despite his 
preparation, Tyer later said, 



No ones knows with what fear and trembling I took upon myself 
the responsibility of the spiritual welfare of the church. With a lit- 
tle experience and tender in years, I was taking upon myself a tre- 
mendous responsibility. But the church was well organized and 
possessed able leadership. The patience and love of the members 



93 



94 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



was far beyond my expectations. Under the fruitful ministry of 
my predecessor, they had learned the principles of the kingdom. It 
was a progressive church with a fine Sunday school and a live wire 
missionary organization. 1 

Under Tyer's leadership, the church used the occasion of the fif- 
tieth anniversary of the founding of the church as an opportunity to 
celebrate the life of the church and also to pay off the remaining debt 
on the building. In March, 1941 , one of several ingenious schemes to 
raise money for the debt was revealed: The church would sell Victory 
Bonds issued in one, five, and twenty-five dollar denominations. It 
was even possible to buy the bonds on an installment plan. 2 

Various church school classes accepted the Victory Bonds as a 
challenge. The Men's Bible Class pledged a thousand dollars by mid 
October, and the Women's Bible Class and the Willing Workers 
Class pledged five dollars per class member. The various youth 
classes and groups offered some $150. A "Whittler's Club," estab- 
lished in 1940 to help on church finances, was pressed into service 
for the debt reduction. A long staff of wood, marked in one inch in- 
crements, was displayed in the church. Each inch represented $100. 
As each member or group in the church raised a hundred dollars, that 
segment of the staff was "whittled off." 3 

By the end of September enough had been raised to pay off the 
debt, and the celebration of fifty years of life and witness was high- 
lighted by the burning of the mortgage. Greetings were presented 
from the local churches. Three charter members were present: A. B. 
Whitley, Jesse Whitley, Jane L. Randolph. A number of members of 
the church gave recollections of the early days of the church. The 
meal following the service was described as "Sweet fellowship. . . . 
It was truly a day of celebration and thanksgiving." 4 

During Tyer's tenure at the church, the women's organizations 
went through a period of restructure. From the first decade of the 
church's life, there had been two women's organizations in the 
church, the Ladies Aid, and the Women's Missionary Society, orig- 
inally known as the Christian Woman's Board of Missions. In June 
of 1938, the two groups were joined to form the Women's Council, 
and they were sub-divided into eight groups called circles. The new 
structure, following a constitution suggested by the United Christian 
Missionary Society, also combined the purposes of the two earlier 
organizations, support of the congregational program and the larger 
mission concerns of the Disciples. 5 



Conflict and Growth 95 




Women's Sunday School classes, about 1950 



96 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



Throughout the history of First Christian Church, and most of 
the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the women's missionary 
organizations have served not only to raise funds for outreach, they 
provided the primary mission education program of the church. This 
reality was known to the women. At a meeting of the Women's 
Council in 1939, in a discussion of how to get the men of the church 
interested in the mission work of the church, Billie Lee Hope said 
that "to do this we must train our children." 6 To imply that the adult 
men were beyond hope must have evoked more than a few chuckles. 

The Women's groups also served as a place where the women of 
the church learned about and discussed the major issues of the day. 
In 1940, during a program on the lack of freedom in the world, con- 
cern was expressed about Jews and their plight in a world of Nazis 
and war: 

Today the Jews are the no. 1 refugees of the world. They are also 
God's chosen people. We have accepted Christ yet we spurn his 
chosen people. Guard your attitude. Put yourself in the place of the 
wandering refugee. To deny refuge to others would destroy some- 
thing very precious in our heritage, for our forefathers were refu- 
gees seeking a place of religious freedom. 7 

And it was the Women's Council where members of the church 
first began to discuss within the church issues of race relations. At 
the first meeting of the full Women's Council, a Black woman, Pat- 
tie Jones, was present to give a report on a conference to be held in 
Winston-Salem. The next month Billie Lee Hope gave a devotional 
on the topic of "One Blood." She was reported to have "made a 
very instructive and inspirational talk in which she revealed to us the 
astonishing fact that we truly are 'of one blood.' She stated that sci- 
entists and doctors are unable, when given a specimen of blood, to 
tell if the blood came from a white person or a black." At the same 
meeting a speaker from the Beaufort County Welfare Department re- 
ported on housing and unemployment in Washington. She spoke of 
"the great need for better housing conditions in our town, especially 
in the colored section, where she said there are but a few screens, a 
few decent houses, and very little chance for sanitary living." She 
concluded with a word of appreciation for the congregation's assis- 
tance to the Welfare Department, and the women "promised our 
continued aid in the future in alleviating the conditions among the 
poor in our town." 8 



Conflict and Growth 97 



In addition to learning, and daring to consider new ideas, the 
Women's Council worked in creative ways to raise money to support 
missions and the local congregation. Among other things, they saved 
box tops from Quick- Arrow Soap Flakes, for which they received 
five cents per top; they saved Octagon Soap wrappers, and ex- 
changed them for silverware and china for the church kitchen. For 
several years they sold vast amounts of Jell-O chocolate pudding and 
metal sponges to raise money. 9 

Throughout the records of the Women's Council there is an im- 
pression of how faithful these women were in following the program 
developed by the Disciples United Christian Missionary Society and 
published monthly in World Call magazine. They learned about the 
mission of the church throughout the world. They studied issues 
ranging from evangelism to ways to help the hungry to questions of 
social justice and education. Through the Women's Council the 
women of the church received an ongoing education in what the 
church does, and they responded in creative ways to raise as much 
money as possible to meet as many needs as possible. Furthermore, 
their concern for world missions was reflected in their concerns for 
those immediately around them. They called on the sick within the 
church and they also assisted the poor within the community. They 
revealed a strong sense of knowing who — and whose — they were, 
and the importance of their role with the church. They addressed 
some of the most difficult issues of the day, including war and peace, 
racism, and world hunger, without flinching. During these early 
years of the Women's Council, they were under the strong leadership 
of Presidents Essie Roebuck and Etta Lee Cooper. 10 

Harold Tyer observed the end of his first year as pastor of the 
church by serving as host for the State Convention of the North 
Carolina Christian Missionary Society. The Convention took place 
November 9-11, 1938, and many of the delegates stayed with mem- 
bers of the congregation on the "Harvard plan, which means that 
each delegate provides for his own dinner and supper." Breakfast 
was provided by the host family, generally for a total fee of $1 .00 for 
the two or three nights involved. 11 

Over a thousand registered for the convention, making it the 
largest in North Carolina Disciples history to that date. John Waters, 
speaking to the Convention "with force, pungency, and originality," 
urged the gathering, "to safeguard our churches from irresponsible 
preachers." Under the leadership of the Temperance and Social Wei- 



98 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 

fare Committee, the Convention called for the church to "identify 
itself with the struggle for an economic order making possible a more 
abundant life for all." They condemned war, upholding "the right of 
any man or woman to refuse to support any war in which this country 
might become involved." They expressed concern for "excessive ex- 
penditures" for the military and the international arms race. They 
stated, "We will support any student from our churches in his con- 
scientious objection to military training." 12 

The Convention also expressed concern about race relations. Af- 
ter "an impromptu talk by Everett J. Harris, rural minister, in behalf 
of an adequate helpfulness toward colored Disciples," a committee 
on inter-racial relations was appointed. Harold Tyer was named to 
this committee. The Temperance and Social Welfare Committee re- 
ported, "We view with alarm the spirit of intolerance throughout our 
country. We deplore the denial of civil liberties to any minority 
group among us, regardless of how much they differ from the pre- 
vailing opinion, economically, politically, or socially." They also 
took a strong stand against mob violence and lynching, and called for 
a reform of voting processes. 13 

The Convention in addition addressed issues of the economic or- 
der, saying that they "recognize the evils of tenantry" farming, 
"and urge the State and Federal governments to work out a system 
by which the tenant can become owner of the land. We advocate the 
exemption from taxation of small homesteads occupied exclusively 
by the owner, and a graduated tax on large land holdings to discour- 
age excessive large farm acreage." They also urged state crime of- 
ficials to make use of psychology and sociology, and they asked the 
state legislature to bring an end to capital punishment. 14 

A number of Washingtonians provided leadership or were 
elected to leadership by the Convention. B. Frank Leggett served on 
the State Missions Apportioning Commission; Essie Roebuck is 
listed as recording secretary of the state Christian Women's Mission- 
ary Society; E. Leon Roebuck is noted as a member of the auditing 
committee; Jane L. Randolph was chosen for the historical commis- 
sion, and Anne Tyer was elected Vice-President of the Ministers' 
Wives Council. 15 

The first State Convention to meet after the nation went to war 
was also held in Washington. The November 4-6, 1942, Convention 
drew some 730 delegates, a good number given the restrictions on 
travel already in place. Harold Tyer urged Disciples to come to 



Conflict and Growth 99 



Washington, suggesting car-pooling as a way of dealing with gaso- 
line and tire shortages. Olin Fox, minister of the First Christian 
Church of Goldsboro said, "Think not for one moment that you are 
being unpatriotic in using your cars for this purpose. President 
Roosevelt has, in his letters to our church leaders throughout the 
country, made it definitely clear that church gatherings are, not only 
important but necessary to the life of the nation at this time." The 
efforts of the Washington church to plan the Convention received 
high praise. An article reporting on the Convention in the North 
Carolina Christian said, "The local church did a magnificent job in 
caring adequately for the convention. In fact it did so well we will 
have to revise the catch phrase 'Washington — the Original' to 
'Washington — The Unbeatable.' Washington women are a marvel- 
ous group of workers." 16 

The 1942 Convention encouraged the churches to participate in 
the Federal Council of Churches (predecessor to the National Council 
of Churches) and the North Carolina Council of Churches. The Tem- 
perance and Social Welfare Committee again called for "a more just 
and Christian social order" that would provide economic security for 
all people, "provide for all who are unable to earn their living," 
work for racial tolerance and voting rights for "all citizens of all 
races and classes, . . . provide for the rehabilitation of inmates of 
our penal institutions," and assist in feeding "the starving people of 
the small European democracies, to contribute to funds for China 
relief." 17 

The Convention also considered the issue of war even as the na- 
tion was coming to the end of that first dark year of the Second 
World War. These Disciples gathered in Washington declared their 
belief "that war is un-Christian" and they deplored "the present 
condition of the war and the inability of nations to settle disputes by 
peaceful means." They upheld "the rights of conscientious objectors 
of war." The Inter-racial Relations Committee, under the leadership 
of Harold Tver, presented its concerns about the impact of the war on 
"rising tension between the races during this national and world cri- 
sis. We fear the ultimate disaster that may be caused by discrimina- 
tion against the Negro race in our National Defense efforts." 18 These 
were bold words to speak in a day of heightened emotions and fears. 

While the Disciples in Washington and North Carolina were 
clearly united in their opposition to war as a legitimate way to settle 
international disputes, they also were united in their support of the 



100 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 

Allies, aware that in life choices are not always between right and 
wrong, but often between wrong and wrong, or in this case, wrong 
and worse, far worse. At the January 6, 1943, meeting of the Board, 
Harold Tyer notified the church that he had volunteered to be a navy 
chaplain, but did not know when he would be called up. The church 
agreed to grant him a two year leave of absence or for the duration of 
the war, and a vacation of one month with full pay beginning Feb- 
ruary 1 . A few weeks later Tyer learned that he would not be ac- 
cepted into the service, presumably because of a head and back 
injury sustained some nine years earlier. Tyer knew that the Wash- 
ington church had by this time already obtained the services of an 
interim minister, and he did not feel that he could ask to be re- 
instated. As a result he resigned on April 9 so that the church would 
be free to proceed to find a permanent replacement. He soon ac- 
cepted a position with the church in Asheville, North Carolina. 19 

Harold Tyer's immediate replacement was Richard Henry Cross- 
field (1868-1951) who came as an interim minister. Crossfield was 
one of the most distinguished ministers among the Disciples. He had 
a Ph.D. plus three honorary doctorates. He had served churches in 
Kentucky, Virginia, and Alabama. He had been President of Tran- 
sylvania College, William Woods College, and the College of the Bi- 
ble. He was a respected author and leader in many areas of national 
and international church life. 20 While President of Transylvania and 
the College of the Bible, Crossfield presided over a turning point in 
Disciples history, and in a significant way helped lead the Disciples 
in the direction of mainstream Protestantism and participation in the 
major ecumenical movements of the twentieth century. More of this 
will be considered later in this chapter. Having R. H. Crossfield as 
an interim minister, even if he was seventy-five years old, caused 
other Disciples to sit up and take note of the congregation on the 
Pamlico. 

Unlike many interim ministers who see their tasks to be primar- 
ily a matter of care-taking while a church seeks a new minister, 
Crossfield moved actively into the life of the community. He spoke 
to local civic clubs, made addresses on the radio, and in his first 
month in Washington made 198 calls on members and potential 
members. He gave a series of lessons during Sunday evening ser- 
vices on "Religion in a World at War." With a title that must have 
tantalized, and perhaps even scandalized, the town, he announced 



Conflict and Growth 101 



four Sunday evening addresses on "The Religion of Hitler, Musso- 
lini, Stalin, and Washington." By May he had to urge the pulpit 
committee to move more aggressively. 21 

With firm pressure from Crossfield, the Board began to look se- 
riously for a new minister, and on July 4, 1943, met with G. Curtis 
Jones from Tazewell, Virginia. He was called to serve the church 
with a beginning date of September 1 . In George Curtis Jones Wash- 
ington had obtained a talented, hard-driving vigorous minister. Jones 
was thirty-two when he and his wife Sybil arrived in Washington 
with the first of what would be five sons, Curtis, Jr. Jones had stud- 
ied at Lynchburg College and received his seminary degree from 
Yale. Over his ministry he wrote over twenty books, and served at 
some of the leading Disciples churches. 22 

Jones gave precise monthly reports on his activities to the 
Board, reports that show something of the energy he brought to the 
office of minister. In addition to preaching twice a week and leading 
the Wednesday evening prayer service, he averaged well over a hun- 
dred pastoral calls per month, and often reported large numbers of 
letters sent out. By November he was able to make progress on one 
of his favorite concerns, tithing. Jones firmly believed in the minis- 
try of stewardship. He challenged people to put their money and their 
faith where they liked to say it was. He particularly encouraged 
members to consider giving ten per cent of their pay, or a tithe, to the 
church. In his December 1943 report he noted that forty-three mem- 
bers had decided to tithe after a series of sermons on stewardship. 
(One young member of the church who was away in the military ser- 
vice the entire time that Jones was minister, recalled years later that 
while he never met G. Curtis Jones, he received letters from him en- 
couraging him to tithe his pay.) One result was that the church bud- 
get doubled during the two years of his ministry in Washington. 23 

G. Curtis Jones' time in Washington corresponded with the 
most active period of American forces in World War II. From the 
beginning of the war, the church had expressed its concern and of- 
fered its prayers. On December 9, 1941, the Board called upon the 
congregation to pray "for the Pres. of the U. S. during the greatest 
tribulation our country has ever faced." A few months later the 
Board wrote each member serving in the military. On Jones' first day 
in Washington, a meeting of the Official Board of the church was 
interrupted by a signal to go to blackout conditions. 24 



102 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



The church engaged in a number of activities to help those who 
were in the service. Communion sets were purchased for Disciples 
military chaplains; The Women's Bible Class provided meals for the 
U.S.O. and wrote those in the military; announcements about war 
bond drives were made at Board meetings; Christmas gifts were 
bought for members in the service. One of the most important forms 
of participation in the war effort was the Week of Compassion pro- 
gram begun in February of 1944 to help refugees of the war. Orga- 
nized by the Wartime Services Fund of the Disciples international 
office, this became a major source of emergency relief funds for all 
kinds of situations, and one of the favorite outreach programs of the 
Washington church. The first Week of Compassion campaign sought 
$900, representing ten dollars for each of the 90 members of the 
church in the service at that time. By the end of the war, some 144 
members were in the military, representing almost fifteen percent of 
the total membership. 25 

During the 1940s the church entered the electronic ministry age 
by occasionally broadcasting their services over the radio, and later 
by having ministers lead their own radio programs. At least as early 
as February of 1944, G. Curtis Jones had a Saturday afternoon radio 
feature called * 'Tomorrow is Sunday.' ' Radio time was initially pro- 
vided gratis by the W. R. Roberson family, and then made available 
at very low cost. 26 

In the fall of 1941 the Board approved the formation of a com- 
mittee to explore the possibility of a church sponsored kindergarten, 
but nothing came of the plan. When G. Curtis and Sybil Jones ar- 
rived in town, and began to seek a kindergarten program for their 
son, they first raised the matter with the church Board to see if there 
might be interest within the church for a kindergarten. The response 
was polite but without enthusiasm. In the spring of 1944, the Jones 
family let it be known that their son would be attending the next ses- 
sion of a kindergarten run by the Catholic Church. The goad was 
used to good effect. At the May 21, 1944, meeting, the Board ap- 
proved plans to establish a kindergarten immediately. Retired mis- 
sionary, Etta Nunn, was called to serve as director. 27 

The kindergarten was to be housed in the old parsonage adjacent 
to the church building, with the church nursery and children's church 
program using the space on Sundays. The parsonage had recently 
been vacated with the purchase of the Currier home near the church 
on Second Street. The first kindergarten class had 45 children. Pau- 



Conflict and Growth 103 



line Walker was employed to serve as an assistant to Etta Nunn. But 
Nunn's position was soon altered due to the desire of the church to 
have her on the church staff. She was made Minister of Missions. 
Walker became Director of the Kindergarten. 28 

Etta Nunn (1874-1958) a native of New Bern, gave her life to 
the church for whatever purpose she might be used. It was said that 
she "lived with a Christian abandon." She studied at Peabody Col- 
lege (now a part of Vanderbilt University), the University of North 
Carolina, the College of Missions (operated by the Christian Wom- 
an's Board of Missions in Indianapolis), and even studied music for 
a year in New York. She worked in Mexico after several years of rep- 
resenting various missions groups across the Southeast. When the 
Depression forced the United Christian Missionary Society to cut 
back on operations, Etta Nunn became general secretary of the Vir- 
ginia Woman's Christian Missionary Society. 29 

When Etta Nunn joined the church staff, she became the second 
person to work alongside G. Curtis Jones. Berta Henderson had been 
called in February of 1944 to be Director of Religious Education and 
assistant to the minister. Henderson came from Texas, where she had 
worked with churches and studied at Texas Christian University. 
While most of her responsibilities were directly related to Christian 
education, Jones saw to it that she had broader pastoral experience as 
well. She made pastoral calls, made the "Tomorrow is Sunday" ra- 
dio broadcast, and even presided in worship on occasion, an unusual 
act of leadership for women at that time. 30 

The ministry of G. Curtis Jones to the community, the state, and 
the national (and international) work of the church continued to 
move the congregation as a leader in witness and mission. Like 
Harold Tyer before him, Jones led worship at the nearby prison camp 
for Black males. In 1944, while serving as President of the local min- 
isterial association, he guided the churches in new areas in race re- 
lations. He reported to the Board, "Your pastor had a ministers' 
meeting this month with all the white and colored preachers of our 
community. The purpose of this meeting was to promote better in- 
terest and cooperation between all of our churches and to help our 
town and country authorities with problems involving the need of 
improving the operation of certain places in our neighborhood." The 
next year he participated in an interdenominational, interracial ser- 
vice of celebration and cooperation. This would become an annual 
event in Washington, with each succeeding minister of the Christian 



104 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



Church deeply involved in planning and support. Jones was also a 
regular speaker at Atlantic Christian College, and organized a new 
camping program for Disciples youth in North Carolina. Jones even 
worked on a regular basis with the Washington High School football 
team. Towards the end of his ministry in Washington Jones was 
asked by the Federal Council of Churches to "prepare a prayer that 
will be read over the Mutual Broadcasting System during stressful 
moments in America." 31 

At a special meeting of the Board on May 2, 1945, G. Curtis 
Jones read a letter of resignation, indicating that he had accepted a 
call to become Associate Minister of the Central Woodward Chris- 
tian Church in Detroit, perhaps the pre-eminent church among Dis- 
ciples at that time. Jones indicated that the decision was a hard one 
to make, but that the opportunity to minister with, and study with, 
Edgar DeWitt Jones (no relation to G. Curtis) was not to be passed 
by. The resignation was received by a period of complete silence 
from the Board. As words came into their mouths, Board members 
expressed deep regret, and yet pleasure for their pastor. They had 
known from the start that Jones was a very young minister who 
would go far, they had only hoped that he would be able to share his 
gifts with them a bit longer. A few months later Berta Henderson 
also resigned in order to accept a position at Central Woodward. 32 

After a very brief interim by R. H. Crossfield again, the church 
extended a call to M. Elmore Turner (1906-), then serving the First 
Christian Church of Corbin, Kentucky. He arrived in Washington 
with his family — wife Irene McDonald, and children Patricia, Kath- 
leen, and Michael — in early August of 1945, and set immediately to 
work. Turner, a native of Richmond, Virginia, attended Lynchburg 
College and the College of the Bible. He had done further study at 
the University of Chicago, and taught religion for a few years at 
Lynchburg. He had also spent two years on a special mission assign- 
ment with an English speaking Disciples church in Cape Town, 
South Africa. 33 

As had been the case with previous ministers of the Washington 
church, M. Elmore Turner was called upon to provide leadership in 
the city, the district and the state. Soon after arriving he was the first 
person elected Vice-President in the newly created Albemarle Dis- 
trict Union of the Disciples, and in 1947 was elected President. He 
also served as Vice President of the North Carolina Disciples Min- 
isters' Association, and President of the State Convention of the 



Conflict and Growth 105 



North Carolina Christian Missionary Society. Locally, among other 
responsibilities, he served as a member of the advisory board of the 
Salvation Army. 34 

As with G. Curtis Jones, much of Turner's ministry concerned 
the operations of the kindergarten at the church. Pauline Walker left 
the position of Director in the spring of 1947, and was replaced by 
Mary Exum Blackwell. The next year Callaree Champion was made 
Director. Etta Nunn led the congregation to encourage other 
churches in town to cooperate on the kindergarten. After three years 
the Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches joined 
in the program to create the Community Kindergarten, with plans to 
continue to use the facilities of First Christian Church for several 
more years. 35 

The education program that had shown marked growth in the 
thirties and early forties began to grow with incredible speed during 
the ministry of Elmore Turner. While much of the increase should 
certainly be attributed to the time and attention given to education by 
the church, the reality was that Turner came to the church at the end 
of World War II, and the beginning of the Baby Boom. For the next 
twenty years there would be children filling every nook and cranny in 
the church. 

Beginning early in the 1940s, in addition to an education com- 
mittee, the church established a Workers' Conference, more appro- 
priately, a Sunday School Workers' Conference. This was an 
organization for those who taught in the church school program and 
provided them with training and encouragement. Education leader 
Callaree Champion served as President of the North Carolina Adult 
Conference in 1945. And the Washington Sunday School was ranked 
second in the nation among Disciples for the number of new Sunday 
School pupils. 36 

After Berta Henderson left the church, Sara Katherine Burner 
was called to be Director of Religious Education, her work to begin 
September 1, 1946. Burner was a native of Ohio, studied at Tran- 
sylvania College and received her Master of Religious Education 
from the College of the Bible in 1946. She served for only thirteen 
months before resigning in order to marry James Chandler. Burner 
was succeeded by Mildred Lois Robertson, a native of Memphis, 
Tennessee. She, too, had studied at Transylvania and the College of 
the Bible before accepting the position at Washington. She remained 
in the position for some two years before moving elsewhere. 37 



106 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



The church then turned to an Atlantic Christian College student, 
Wilbur Ballenger, who served on weekends during the period from 
the winter of 1950-1951 through 1952. He turned down an offer to 
continue at the church in order to serve as pastor of a small 
congregation. 

Through this period of rapid change in educational leadership, 
the educational program of the church continued to evolve. By 1945 
the youth program had taken on the name of Christian Youth Fel- 
lowship. Elmore Turner began what appears to have been the first 
"Pastor's Class," intended for older children as they approached the 
age to consider church membership. Etta Nunn, meanwhile, had al- 
ready organized a "junior congregation" as an alternative for young 
children to the full worship service. For a time Etta Nunn and Pauline 
Walker led a Sunday School program on the west side of the city as 
a way to encourage more regular attendance by children on that side 
of town. The church even had a summer Sunday School class at 
River Acres in 1948. It was a time of innovation. 39 

The Scouting program continued to grow during the forties and 
into the fifties. In 1943 a Cub Scout Pack was added with Phil Willis 
as Cub Master, to be succeeded by Wade Waters when Willis was 
called into the military. William J. Dunn took over the Scout Master 
position from William Ellis that same year and gave many years of 
service. By 1950 plans were underway to add an Explorer's troop. 40 

Newspaper announcements about the schedule of services at the 
church during Turner's ministry portrayed the morning worship as 
"centered in the Lord's Supper." This was certainly an appropriate 
description of the place of importance for Holy Communion for Dis- 
ciples. But during this time the significance of the Breaking of the 
Bread was taken to a new level for the congregation. The decision 
was made to take the Lord's Supper to the sick and shut-ins. This 
began as a once per month, and then weekly, program of the Evan- 
gelism Committee which later turned the matter over to the elders 
and deacons. 41 

It appears that another innovation under Elmore Turner, one that 
would also continue to the present, was the dedication of babies. The 
first reference is in 1947 on Mother's Day. As an indication of the 
impact of the War Babies, in 1948 invitations were sent out to 34 
mothers for the dedication service! 42 

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the most common 
weekly schedule for Protestant churches in America was worship on 



Conflict and Growth 107 



Sunday mornings and evenings, and a Wednesday evening service 
often referred to as a "prayer meeting." Even before World War II 
this pattern was beginning to break down, with both Sunday evening 
and the prayer meeting beginning to suffer from lack of attendance. 
At the same time, heightened expectations of ministers, including 
quality of sermons, counseling, leadership in the community, and ad- 
ministration, were making it increasingly difficult for ministers to 
provide strong leadership at three separate services each week. The 
pressure to change arrived at First Christian Church in Washington at 
least by 1938, when attempts began to be made to revitalize the two 
evening services. 43 

At the February 7, 1945, Board Meeting, members were encour- 
aged to attend the Sunday evening services, particularly since "the 
attendance has been on the decline for some time." Later that same 
year Mr. Jimmy Roberson suggested that the minister "work with 
worship committee to work out someway to increase value of one of 
two services — midweek or Sun. night and dispense with one of 
them." Turner responded by saying the lack of attendance indicated 
to him that the Sunday evening service was not needed. 44 

It is clear that the two evening services were on their way out, 
even before the advent of television in Eastern North Carolina. While 
not the cause of decline, it is likely that the addition of the "box" to 
almost every home in the 1950s sealed the fate of evening church 
programs. 45 The experience of First Christian Church was shared by 
most other Disciples churches across the nation, and most of the 
mainline Protestant denominations, with the one exception of the 
Southern Baptists. 

Another issue related to worship arose during Turner's ministry. 
At the December 2, 1945, meeting of the Board, a letter from or- 
ganist Vivian Weatherly was presented in which she outlined the 
problems with the organ. She spoke of 

numerous times we have waited in suspense wondering if the or- 
gan would come on. ... At other times one note would stick 
throughout the entire service. . . . Quite often with various 
changes of the weather, one note or another won't play. . . . Many 
times ... I have felt like quitting. ... I highly recommend the 
purchasing of the best new organ we can afford. 46 



The Board began talking about the problem, and Vivian Weath- 
erly kept reminding the Board about the utter frustrations of trying to 



108 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



lead worship with such an instrument. The Board finally chose to 
have expensive repairs made, and the organist continued to suffer for 
over twenty-five years before a new organ was purchased. 47 

From the beginning of the congregation's history, there had been 
no fellowship group for men. The women had organized early on, 
and had developed a sophisticated program. Although the Official 
Board had been a strictly male enclave for a couple of decades, it 
was narrowly focused in purpose, and only elected members could 
fully participate. The Men's Bible Class provided some of the op- 
portunities men needed for study, service, and fellowship, but it was 
not as open-ended as the women's groups. In 1948 State Secretary 
Charles C. Ware addressed the State Convention asking for more at- 
tention to men's work in the churches. As a result the men of the 
Washington church met in 1950 at the Rendezvous Restaurant under 
the leadership of E. Leon Roebuck and formed a "Layman's 
League," which then became the Christian Men's Fellowship. Once 
organized, the Washington CMF helped organize a district CMF. 48 

The habits of helping those in difficulty, developed in the earli- 
est days of the life of the church, nurtured to maturity under Richard 
Bagby, continued to bear fruit in the forties. During the war this 
sometimes meant going before the Ration Board to intercede in be- 
half of an individual or family that had special needs, taking special 
offerings for the poor, contributing to the Week of Compassion pro- 
gram, and sending Christmas boxes of food to poor families. At a 
time of mass hardship and starvation in Europe and Asia in the af- 
termath of the Second World War, Reverend M. Elmore Turner was 
involved in the organization of Beaufort County for the Christian Ru- 
ral Overseas Program (CROP), one of the most effective ecumenical 
crisis relief organizations of the century. In 1948 Turner reported that 
Beaufort County had collected "farm produce and canned goods 
with a total weight of 50,100 pounds for shipment overseas." 49 

The church also continued to be very supportive of Disciples 
outreach causes, especially Atlantic Christian College. Total giving 
to Disciples outreach during this period generally averaged fifteen to 
eighteen percent of the annual budget. 50 

A new program supported by the church in the 1940s was the 
teaching of Bible at Washington High School. The issue first 
emerged in 1938 with no decisions made. Curtis Jones brought the 
matter before the Board with a request from the Ministerial Associ- 



Conflict and Growth 109 



ation that the school board be asked to allow the Bible to be taught 
as a regular course for credit, but with funding by the churches of the 
city. The church Board approved. In 1945 M. Elmore Turner re- 
ported that plans had progressed, and a teacher had been employed. 
For many years to come this would be one of the most widely sup- 
ported ecumenical activities in Washington. 51 

Prior to the 1940s, election to the Official Board carried with it 
regular re-election so long as the person wanted to serve. A look at 
the list of Board members in 1940 reveals most of the names of those 
who were serving in 1920. The continuity of leadership provided 
strength. The lack of regular turn-over and fresh ideas was a weak- 
ness. In 1947, as Disciples churches around the country were re- 
examining their structure, First Christian Church began to do the 
same thing. Elmore Turner urged the Board to read a new book 
which dealt with committee work in the church. This was almost cer- 
tainly The Church Functioning Effectively by Orman L. Shelton. The 
book described a new way of organizing the work of the congrega- 
tion using "functional" committees. The primary work of the 
church would be done by these committees composed of members of 
the church — members who do not have to be Board members. The 
Official Board would become a general oversight and policy making 
body of the church. An executive committee made up of committee 
chairs would give primary leadership. 52 

The Washington church Board studied the recommendations of 
the Shelton book, and in 1948 heard Turner suggest the formation of 
a church cabinet composed of the chairs of the ten standing commit- 
tees. A beginning was made towards the concept of functioning com- 
mittees. The process would be brought to completion during the 
early years of the ministry of Raymond L. Alexander. 53 

An adequate parsonage remained a problem for the church. The 
old parsonage behind the church had been taken over to provide 
needed educational space. An older home across from the church on 
Second Street was only minimally acceptable, but both the Jones 
family and the Turners lived there. In 1945 the church purchased a lot 
on Market Street and planned to build a parsonage there. But the 
plans changed when the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) an- 
nounced a major campaign, Crusade for a Christian World, to raise 
funds to build 200 new churches, help the churches to grow, and re- 
cruit ministers and missionaries. The goal of $14,000,000 was not 



1 10 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



reached, but the church did raise ten million dollars, saw a period of 
growth in members and enthusiasm for the mission of the church. 
Under M. Elmore Turner's leadership, the First Christian Church of 
Washington accepted the challenge of the larger church. They put 
aside plans for a new parsonage, and instead contributed $21 ,000 to- 
wards the Crusade. Only after that campaign was finished in 1951, 
did the work on raising funds for a new parsonage resume. 54 

Etta Nunn still served the church as Minister of Missions during 
Elmore Turner's tenure at the church. But she felt that she was not 
pulling her own weight, and in the summer of 1947 asked that her 
salary be reduced by at least one-third. At first the Board did not 
want to comply, but finally acquiesced and lowered her salary by 
one-sixth. By 1951 she refused a salary altogether, so the Board 
made arrangements to pay for her apartment rent. She continued to 
call on the sick and shut-ins, she taught the Women's Bible Class, 
and assisted with the kindergarten. In all these areas of her ministry, 
she was a spiritual leader, much beloved by the congregation. 55 

Throughout his service as minister to the Washington church, 
M. Elmore Turner continued the practice of his predecessors in 
working for racial justice and harmony. In addition to working ac- 
tively in behalf of the annual inter-racial, interdenominational ser- 
vice held each May, he led the church in financially supporting Black 
delegates to a Disciples Christian education leadership program for 
Black churches; he spoke at the General Assembly of the Eastern As- 
semblies (Black Disciples); preached on issues of race (one sermon 
was entitled "In the Presence of Race Hatred"); and taught in the 
Vacation Bible School of the Mt. Hebron Christian Church, a Black 
Disciples church in Washington. His commitment was deep, and his 
witness effective. 56 

Earlier in this book there is a discussion of the division between 
the Disciples and the non-instrumental Churches of Christ. In addi- 
tion to all of the purely Disciples issues involved in that schism, it is 
also correct to say that the division was a Disciples response to a 
conflict that spread throughout world, especially American Chris- 
tianity during the period from about 1875 to about 1925. This con- 
flict, called the Modernist-Fundamentalist controversy, was rooted in 
radically opposing concepts of how to interpret the Bible, and the 
relationship of the Christian faith to the modern world. 

The Disciples followed the direction of modernism, accepting 
modern methods of biblical interpretation, and the benefits and in- 



Conflict and Growth 111 



sights of the modern sciences. The Churches of Christ, characterized 
by their opposition to instrumental music in worship, followed many 
of the tenets of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism in its various 
forms particularly emphasized a literalist approach to the interpre- 
tation of the Bible, and upheld a number of doctrinal beliefs as es- 
sential, or "fundamental," to being a true Christian. All of the 
mainstream churches in America participated in the controversy, and 
most experienced a schism over it. 

Just when the Disciples thought that they had weathered their 
own storm in this Modernist-Fundamentalist debate with the loss of 
only ten percent of their members, the same conflict raised its head 
again, beginning soon after the turn of the twentieth century. As with 
the controversy with the non-instrumental Churches of Christ, much 
of this division had to do with the degree of emphasis put on "Res- 
torationism," the idea that the goal of the Disciples was to "restore" 
the primitive purity of the New Testament church. 

A particularly strong period of discord came in 1917 when mem- 
bers of the faculty at the College of the Bible were charged with her- 
esy in teaching modern methods of biblical interpretation. The 
Board of Trustees of the seminary refused to hold a heresy trial, and 
concluded by supporting the faculty. This led conservative, Resto- 
rationist, Disciples to begin to form their own colleges and seminar- 
ies. The struggle took place publicly in the various magazines of the 
denomination, with the Christian Standard, published by the Stan- 
dard Publishing Company in Cincinnati, in the forefront of the Res- 
torationist cause. 

The next place of battle was in the United Christian Missionary 
Society over the question of whether or not the UCMS allowed its 
missionaries overseas to accept people into their churches without 
first immersing them. The issue of baptism became the litmus test. 
According to the conservative Disciples, only immersion was bap- 
tism according to the New Testament, and thus only the immersed 
can be members of the church. Many, though not all, would also say 
that only the immersed can be saved. 

When the activities of the missionaries of the United Christian 
Missionary Society were upheld in the International Convention in 
1926 (activities which denied that they were accepting the non- 
immersed into their churches), the Restorationist party in the church 
formed its own national meeting, the North American Christiar 
Convention, beginning in 1927. 



112 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 

Now, with two competing national conventions, with separate 
groups of colleges and seminaries, there was clearly the beginning of 
a second schism in the church. Further, the conservative Disciples 
said that their experience with the United Christian Missionary So- 
ciety led them to distrust any structure outside of the local congre- 
gation. Some, but not all, would even argue that a missionary 
society is not a biblical idea, and thus has no place in the church. The 
result of this was a move to have each congregation, acting indepen- 
dently, to support independent missionaries. Thus the conservative, 
Restorationist Disciples came to be called "Independents," and the 
Disciples who supported state and national missionary societies, 
came to be called "co-operatives." 

In parts of the country, including Eastern North Carolina, the 
Independents went by the name "Church of Christ," while the Dis- 
ciples almost unanimously used "Christian Church," frequently 
with "Disciples" or "Disciples of Christ" in parentheses. In the 
Southern states west of the mountains, and on across to the Pacific 
coast, the Independents generally used the name "Christian 
Church," so as not to be confused with the non-instrumental 
Churches of Christ. This confusion of names puzzled people within 
as well as outside of the Disciples tradition. 

The conflict between the two sides had already spilled over into 
the congregations by the mid- 1920s. When the issue moved from the 
pages of magazines and the debating stands of conventions, and 
found its way into Sunday School classes and Board meetings, the 
issue took on many local questions of power and personality and 
long-standing family conflicts. In the national context the struggle 
was over great questions of theology and interpretation of scripture. 
In the local congregation, the great issues sometimes gave way to 
personal attack and controversy. When a local congregation divided, 
families were divided, friends were separated, and the wounds left 
were deep and hard to heal. 

The issue reached Washington in the early 1920s. Just prior to 
the Annual State Ministers' Meeting held in Washington in 1922, a 
regional "Restoration Congress" was held at the church. Among the 
speakers were leaders of the national and North Carolina Indepen- 
dents. Speeches included a talk on "How to Overcome Atheistic 
Teaching in our Schools and Colleges," "The United Society and 
the China Mission," "Destructive Criticism [the name given to 



Conflict and Growth 113 



modern interpretations of the Bible]: Its Origin, Methods, and 
Progress." Another speaker talked on "Inspiration, Infallibility, Im- 
mutability of the Bible." Registration cards for the event included 
the following statement: 

Believing the Bible to be Inspirited, Infallible, and Immutable 
Word of God (in that sense which it represents itself to be such), 
and therefore the absolute and unquestionable source of authority 
on matters containing to Christianity, and being opposed to any so 
called religious teaching in our schools and colleges or upon the 
part of any of our missionaries that has the effect of compromising 
or setting at naught any of its declarations as to matters of fact and 
commands enjoined upon us by the inspired writings by the Apos- 
tles of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: I subscribe myself a 
member to this congress. 57 

The early concerns expressed by the conflict can also be seen in the 
questions raised in 1927 with Atlantic Christian College over the 
teaching of evolution and the modern interpretation of the Bible. But 
the debate did not become clear in Washington until the late thirties. 

The most common interpretation of how the battle between the 
Independents and Co-operatives began in Washington is that in 1938 
Bible School Superintendent B. Frank Leggett won an award from 
the Standard Publishing Company and their Lookout magazine for 
being the Sunday School Superintendent of the Year. His prize was 
an opportunity to attend the Leadership Week at Lake James Chris- 
tian Assembly. This annual gathering could be described as an in- 
tense week of learning about matters of organization and operation 
of an effective Sunday school program, with many opportunities to 
learn the value of Sunday school curriculum materials published by 
Standard Publishing. Another view would be that in addition to this 
opportunity to learn about Sunday schools, and receive training in 
the Standard materials, it was also a carefully developed school in 
the Independent cause. 58 

B. F. Leggett returned from his Lake James experience, and ap- 
parently began to try to organize the church in favor of the Indepen- 
dent perspective. He was opposed in this by the young minister, 
Harold Tyer, who had been educated in the modern interpretation of 
the Bible at Atlantic Christian College and Vanderbilt. Tyer sees this 
as the critical point of the struggle, but believes that earlier efforts to 



1 14 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



move the congregation in the Independent direction had been effec- 
tively stifled by the gentle spirit of Richard Bagby. Leggett had led 
the Sunday School to support an Independent missionary in Africa as 
early as the mid-thirties. But now, with a young, inexperienced, and 
relatively powerless minister, those who believed that the conserva- 
tive, Restorationist perspective was the only faithful way to be Chris- 
tian, began to plan and organize. 59 

In the spring of 1939, Leggett and Frank Butler, among others, 
arranged to have Earl H. Fife preach a revival at the Washington 
church. Fife was a strong supporter of the Independent cause, and 
Leggett had met him at Lake James. Apparently under the leadership 
of Leggett, the elders were called together to consider inviting Fife to 
preach the revival. The minister was not informed about the meeting, 
but walked in on the elders out of curiosity about lights on in the 
church. Tyer then wrote some leaders of the church around the coun- 
try who had had experiences with Fife, and the responses, particu- 
larly from State Secretaries, indicated that Fife had worked to lead 
congregations away from the Disciples wherever he had been active. 
Even after hearing the report from Tyer, the elders chose to have Fife 
come. 60 

Tyer remembers the revival beginning with strong attendance, 
but tapering off rapidly after the first couple of nights. By the last 
night only a few came. After the last service Fife confronted Tyer 
about the report he had made to the elders. Tyer in turn visited Rom 
Silverthorne, who then was the chair of the Board of Elders, and 
found him in full support of Tyer and the co-operative position. The 
overwhelming majority of the church also rejected the position of the 
Independents. 61 

As a result, the Independent group in the church organized an 
Independent Missionary Society of the First Christian Church in the 
fall of 1939. They declared their "main purpose ... is to study mis- 
sions in local and foreign fields, and to determine those which de- 
serve aid and which were not adequately supported, and to offer 
them both our spiritual and our financial backing." They were crit- 
ical of money raising schemes (such as those currently used by the 
co-operative women's groups in the congregation), and were pleased 
that all monies raised could go directly to Independent missions, 
their only cost being postage. Under their sponsorship, leading In- 
dependents from across the country came to the church. Lyda Res- 
pass, President of the Independent Missionary Society for much of 



Conflict and Growth 115 



its history, was also given an opportunity to write for the monthly 
magazine, The Gospel Light, edited by B. F. Leggett. The magazine 
became an organ for the Independent perspective. Also, the Roanoke 
District Union came under the leadership of Independents, result- 
ing in the formation in 1946 of the Albemarle District for the 
Disciples. 62 

The conflict over Independents and Cooperatives certainly con- 
tributed to the difficulties faced by Harold Tyer in his ministry. But 
the choice of successors to Tyer did not help the Independent cause. 
It must have been a particularly painful blow to the Independents 
when not once, but twice, R. H. Crossfield was called to the church 
to serve as an interim minister. Crossfield had been President of the 
College of the Bible during the attempt to have a heresy trial, and he 
had been one of the primary supporters of the liberal cause. G. Cur- 
tis Jones recalled the period as one in which the basic conflict was 
already over when he arrived. He described the Independent faction 
in the church as "adroitly annoying." 63 

The clearest sign, however, that the church would not go the di- 
rection of the Independents was when B. Frank Leggett, soon after 
the Fife revival, was not invited to remain as Bible School Superin- 
tendent. Deeply hurt by being rejected by his beloved church, Leg- 
gett soon resigned as elder. By the mid- 1940s the Treasurer's reports 
indicate that the church had stopped using Standard Publishing Com- 
pany materials, another indication of the weakening position of the 
Independents. Just when the Independents actually left the First 
Christian Church is not clear. They established their own church in 
1954, the First Church of Christ of Washington. It is quite likely that 
most had been attending rural Independent churches for some time 
prior to this, as there seems to have been virtually no Independent 
activity in the church after the first couple of years of M. Elmore 
Turner's ministry. 64 

That the Washington church continued with the co-operative, or 
Disciples side of this conflict is seen in the many ways in which the 
church continued to participate in the life of the Christian Church 
(Disciples of Christ). In 1949 the State Convention was again held in 
Washington. Some 1,200 participated in the gathering. Washing- 
ton's Director of Religious Education, Mildred Robertson, was 
elected Treasurer of the Convention and a member of the Educational 
Commission and the Temperance and Social Welfare Committee; M. 
Elmore Turner was elected Chair of the State Board and representa- 



1 16 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



tive to the North Carolina Council of Churches; Essie Roebuck was 
elected First Vice President of the Christian Women's Missionary 
Society and also served on the Temperance and Social Welfare 
Committee. 65 

The Convention took a strong stand on working together with 
and for the Black Disciples in the state. Specifically the Convention 
asked the church and the United Christian Missionary Society to as- 
sist the Black Disciples in strengthening the Goldsboro Christian In- 
stitute, building a home for aged Black Disciples, and bringing a 
state worker to work among their churches. They also asked "that 
there be an exchange of regularly elected delegates between our con- 
ventions." The Convention supported the efforts of the National 
Council of Churches in their interracial programs so that there might 
be "a better understanding of each other and a united service for 
Christ." 66 

The 1949 Washington Convention of the North Carolina Chris- 
tian Missionary Society also took a strong stand against Indepen- 
dents who would disrupt and divide the church. The Ministerial 
Character Committee reminded ministers that it is their duty "to co- 
operate with every worthy Brotherhood enterprise, and to manifest a 
courteous Christian attitude towards other Christians in every pos- 
sible way." They sought "to discourage un-Christian criticism based 
on hearsays, and on unfounded rumors, and not based on fact. We 
believe that toleration, forbearance, and Christian patience is more 
becoming a Christian whether minister or laymen." 67 

In Washington, perhaps no action was more indicative of sup- 
port for the cooperative cause than the decision to become a Living 
Link church. At the May 23, 1945, meeting of the Board, G. Curtis 
Jones and Etta Nunn presented a request from the Women's Council 
asking that the church participate in the Living Link program. Etta 
Nunn reported on her own experience as a Living Link missionary. 
She pointed out that this would mean a more direct connection be- 
tween a missionary in a foreign field and the congregation. The 
name of Claylon Weeks, a native Tar Heel soon to begin serving in 
the Congo, was mentioned. The Board and the congregation 
approved. 68 

In October it was reported to the Board that Claylon Weeks had 
indeed been assigned to the church as a Living Link Missionary. 
Over the next several years the church enjoyed its special relationship 



Conflict and Growth 117 



with the Weeks family, and maintained contact on a regular basis. 
When the Weeks returned to the United States on furlough in 1949, 
they visited their Washington family for the first of many visits. The 
relationship built an understanding of the balance between service 
and evangelism in the mission field. And the Weeks received letters, 
gifts, encouragement and love from the congregation. 69 

It had been a tumultuous fifteen years since Richard Bagby had 
retired. Three ministers, two interim ministers, a minister of mis- 
sions, and four DREs later, the church was looking at the emerging 
boom period of the fifties, boom period for the churches at least. 
There was some sense among a number of the leaders of the church 
that a change of ministers would serve the church well. M. Elmore 
Turner resigned effective October 31, 1952. He soon moved to the 
Broad Street Christian Church in New Bern. 70 

During the seven years of his ministry in Washington, M. El- 
more Turner welcomed 307 new members, 165 by baptism, Sunday 
School attendance increased from 298 to 420 per Sunday. The church 
fulfilled its commitment of $21,000 to the Crusade for a Christian 
World, and work was drawing to a conclusion on a new parsonage. 
The kindergarten expanded to an ecumenical base with three teachers 
and almost seventy students. Turner had served as President of the 
State Convention, as well as of the Albemarle District Union, and 
had chaired the board of directors of the North Carolina Christian 
Missionary Society, the state organization of Disciples. It had been a 
busy ministry. 71 

1 Harold L. Tyer, "My Ministry Here," Gospel Light (November 
1941). 

2 RB 6, pp. 7-8; Newsletter of the First Christian Church Bible 
School (March 31, 1941). 

3 "Washington Church Issues Victory Bonds," Gospel Light (May 
1941). 

4 Harold L. Tyer, "Washington Church Celebrated 50th Anniversary 
Last Month," Gospel Light (December 1941); RB 6, Program of Fiftieth 
Anniversary, attached to p. 21. 

5 Secretary's Book for Women's Council, no. 1, pp. 28, 30, 36. 

6 Ibid., no. 2, p. 33. 

7 Ibid., p. 46. 

8 Ibid., no. 1, pp. 28-29, 32-33. 



118 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



9 Ibid., no. 1, pp. 39, 43. 

10 Ibid., nos. 1 and 2. 

11 "Send Your Name to Washington," North Carolina Christian 19 
(November 1938): 1 . 

12 "1938 Convention," North Carolina Christian 19 (December 
1938): 2; Supplement to vol. 20 (August-September 1939): 10-11. 

13 "1938 Convention," North Carolina Christian 19 (December 
1938): 2; Supplement to vol. 20 (August-September 1939): 5, 10-11. 

14 North Carolina Christian Supplement to vol. 20 (August-Septem- 
ber 1939): 5, 10-11. 

15 Ibid., pp. 2, 3, 12. 

16 Harold L. Tyer, "Welcome to the 98th Convention," Gospel Light 
(October 1942); "The Washington Convention," North Carolina Christian 
23 (December 1942): 2. 

17 North Carolina Christian 24 (August 1943): 6, 9. 

18 Ibid., pp. 9-10. 

19 RB 6, pp. 49-51; Pension Fund files, Disciples of Christ Historical 
Society; letter from Harold L. Tyer to Board Chair C. O. Jordan, attached to 
RB 6, p. 57. 

20 Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society. 

21 RB 6, reports attached to pp. 52, 54, 58; pp. 54, 56, 58-59 

22 RB 6, pp. 61-64; Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical 
Society. 

23 RB 6, reports attached to pp. 72, 74, 84; Conversation with Richard 
L. Harrison, Sr. 

24 RB 6, pp. 23, 33, 67. 

25 Ibid., pp. 70, 84-85, 90, 101; Women's Bible Class Record Book, 
November 4, December 2, 1943, February 3, December 7, 1944; RB 6, in- 
serted report of the Minister, October 31, 1945. 

26 RB 6, pp. 31, 111, inserted report of the Minister, April 18, 1944. 

27 RB 6, pp. 20, 96; Conversation with G. Curtis Jones, August 1, 
1985. 

28 RB 6, pp. 105, 130, inserted report of Director of Kindergarten, 
October, 1944. 

29 Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society; John A. 
Tate, Chesapeake Christian (August 1958). 

30 RB 6, pp. 89-90, 91, 93, inserted reports of the Director of Reli- 
gious Education, March 9, April 18, May 9, June 8, September 4, 1944; 
Washington Daily News (February 26, 1944), p. 1. 



Conflict and Growth 119 



31 RB 6, inserted report of the Minister, February 10, March 9, April 
18, May 9, June 8, October 12, 1944, May 13, 1945. 

32 Ibid., pp. 133-134; RB 7, February 3, 1946. 

33 RB 6, pp. 141-147; Washington Daily News (August 2, 1945), p. 1; 
Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society. 

34 Charles Crossfield Ware, Albemarle Annals (n.p.: n.p., 1961), p. 6; 
RB 7, inserted reports of the Minister, October 1947, February 28, 1946, 
November 1947, September 1948. 

35 RB 7, April 6, September 7, 1947, inserted report of the Minister of 
Missions, January, February 8, May 2, May 23, July 4, July 9, 1948, July 
5, 1950. 

36 Record Book of the Sunday School Workers' Conference, May 17, 
October 19, November 15, 1945; RB 7, May 2, 1948. 

37 RB 7, May 5, 1946, September 7, 1947, Pension Fund and Bio- 
graphical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society; George Voiers Moore, 
editor, Centennial Directory of the College of the Bible (Lexington Theolog- 
ical Seminary) (Lexington, KY: College of the Bible, 1965), p. 399; RB 8, 
p. 31. 

38 Pension Fund files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society; RB 8, p. 

67. 

39 RB 6, inserted reports of the Minister and Minister of Missions, 
September 30, October 31, 1945; RB 7 inserted report of the Minister, April 
1949; RB 7, October 6, 1946, August 1, 1948. 

40 RB 6, pp. 57, 60, 74, 93, 95; RB 8, p. 33. 

41 Scrapbook 1946, pp. 4ff; RB 7, December 8, 1946, January 5, 
1947, March 6, April 3, 1949. 

42 RB 7, May 4, 1947, inserted report of the Minister, May, 1948. 

43 Secretary's Book for Women's Council, no. 1, p. 30; RB 6, p. 19. 

44 RB 6, pp. 122-123, 158. 

45 RB 7, January 6, 1946, inserted report of the Minister, February 28, 
1946, RB 7, February 2, 1947, March 7, September 5, 1948. 

46 RB 6, pp. 160-161. 

47 RB 7, April 7, 1946, August 1, 1948, February 6, March 6, 1949; 
RB 8, pp. 26, 39. 

48 E. Leon Roebuck, "Brief History of Christian Men's Fellowship of 
Washington, N.C., First Christian Church," typescript in church files. 

49 RB 5, pp. 76, 94, 96; RB 6, pp. 20, 37, 135, inserted report of the 
Minister, December 31, 1945; RB 7, inserted report of the Minister, Decem- 
ber, 1948. 



120 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



50 RB 5, pp. 74, 86; RB 6, pp. 35, 75, 92; RB 8, p. 61; RB 7, No- 
vember 24, 1946, November 6, 1947. 

51 RB 5, pp. 78, 84; RB 6, p. 149, inserted report of the Treasurer; RB 
8, p. 13. 

52 Lester G. McAllister and William E. Tucker, Journey in Faith: A 
History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (St. Louis: Bethany 
Press, 1975), pp. 412-413; Orman L. Shelton, The Church Functioning Ef- 
fectively (St. Louis: Christian Board of Publication, 1946). 

53 RB 7, January 4, 1948. 

54 RB 6, pp. 135-136, 148, 158-159; RB 7, September 7, 1947, May 
2, May 16, September 5, 1948; RB 8, pp. 23, 25, 67, 79; Letter from M. 
Elmore Turner to Richard L. Harrison, Jr., April 15, 1991. 

55 RB 7, July 6, 1947, April 4, 1948, September 2, 1951, inserted re- 
port of the Minister of Missions, October 1947. 

56 RB 7, April 7, 1946, April 4, 1948, inserted report of the Minister, 
October 1947, April, May 1948, April, June 1949,; file of Minister's reports 
to the Board, June 1952; Washington Daily News (May 1, 1948), p. 1.. 

57 North Carolina Christian 3 (June 1922): 5. 

58 B. Frank Leggett, "The Bible School," Gospel Light (November 
1941); Letter from Marshall J. Leggett to Richard L. Harrison, Jr., April 29, 
1991. 

59 Interview with Harold Tyer, March 8, 1991; B. Frank Leggett, 
"The Bible School." 

60 Interview with Harold Tyer, March 8, 1991; Interview with Harry 
D. Pelletier, March 8, 1991. 

61 Interview with Harold Tyer, March 8, 1991. 

62 Mrs. E. T. Meredith, Jr., "The Independent Missionary Society of 
the First Christian Church," Gospel Light (November 1941); Gospel Light 
(April 1940), (May 1940), (July 1940), (July 1942), (May 1943), (August 
1944). 

63 B. Frank Leggett, Jr., "Divisions Among Christians," unpublished 
typescript manuscript; Conversation with G. Curtis Jones, August 1, 1985. 

64 B. Frank Leggett, Jr., "Divisions"; Marshall J. Leggett, "Quiet 
Heroism," Christian Standard (May 10, 1987), pp. 1, 5; RB 6 and 7, in- 
serted reports of the Treasurer; Gospel Light (December 1954); RB 6, in- 
serted report of the Minister, September 30, 1945. 

65 "Washington Convention," North Carolina Christian 30 (Decem- 
ber 1949): 2-3; 31 (August 1950): 2, 4, 11. 

66 North Carolina Christian 31 (August 1950): 9. 

67 Ibid., pp. 15-16. 



Conflict and Growth 121 



68 RB 6, pp. 138-140. 

69 Ibid., p. 153; RB 7, March 3, May 5, 1946, inserted report of the 
Minister of Missions, December 1947, inserted report of the Minister, July 
3, 1949. 

70 RB 8, p. 82. 

71 "M. E. Turner Resigns at Washington, N. C," Christian- 
Evangelist (October 29, 1952), p. 1080. 



Chapter Seven 

Maturing in Faith and Service 



"Will it play in Peoria?" was on the mind of Wilbert Owens 
when he traveled to that Illinois city to interview a prospective min- 
ister for the First Christian Church of Washington. Raymond Lee Al- 
exander (1907-1981) listened to Owens, pondered and prayed, talked 
long hours with wife Betty, and decided to pursue the possibility of 
moving from the prairie to the coastal plain. In January of 1953, he 
accepted the invitation to come to Washington. 1 

Alexander was a Kentuckian, a son of a minister, an artist and 
horticulturalist. He had received his bachelor's degree from Transyl- 
vania College, had a degree in religious education from Lane Sem- 
inary in Cincinnati, and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from the 
College of the Bible. He was a serious student, had pursued further 
study with the rabbis at Hebrew Union Seminary and had taken 
courses at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary. Ray and Betty had two 
sons, David who was finishing his college work at Transylvania, 
with plans to enter the College of the Bible in the fall of 1953; and 
Bill, who was in junior high school when the family came to 
Washington. 2 

On April 10, the Alexanders moved into the brand new parson- 
age just built on North Market Street. And at the church the new 
minister found a new secretary, Evelyn Morris. 3 The congregation 
was healthy, sharing in the general sense that the church was the 
place to be in American society. Churches across the country were 
growing rapidly, buildings left unattended and unkept during the De- 
pression and World War II now began to be repaired and replaced. 
Although the nation was still embroiled in the "Police Action" 
known as the Korean conflict, a new President, D wight Eisenhower, 
had been elected on a promise to bring that war to a close, and so he 
did. (Two members of First Christian Church were in the service dur- 
ing the Korean War, Sam Wilson and Fred Adair. Upon their return 
to Washington, they were invited to serve on the Board.) 4 



123 



124 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 

Alexander immediately set out to become acquainted with the 
congregation and the community. Over the years of his ministry he 
would serve on the Brown Library Board, the Redevelopment Com- 
mission, the Good Neighbor Council; he became President of the 
Beaufort County Ministerial Association, the Albemarle District As- 
sembly, the State Convention of the North Carolina Christian Mis- 
sionary Society, and he served on the State Board of Managers of the 
Missionary Society, as well as on the Board of Trustees of Atlantic 
Christian College, the College of the Bible, and Transylvania Col- 
lege. He served on various committees of the International Conven- 
tion of the Christian Church, including the very important 
Nominating Committee. He continued the radio ministry of his pre- 
decessors, now with a program entitled "Religion in the News" on 
station WHED (which later returned to WRRF). For a period he also 
gave a weekly devotional on television station WITN. At least two 
months per year the regular Sunday morning worship services were 
broadcast on the radio. 5 

The fifties were a time of seeking contentment, an age charac- 
terized by the popularity of Norman Vincent Peale's "power of pos- 
itive thinking" ideas. The population, caught between the security of 
the post World War era, comforted by the economic strength of the 
decade (at least until the last two years of the fifties), were also trou- 
bled by being the first atomic age generation, and living in a cold 
war. Themes of comfort, security, happiness represented a craving 
for stability and order. Alexander responded with, among other 
things, a series of sermons on "How to achieve happiness and per- 
sonal well-roundedness." 6 

Alexander also put the church to work reorganizing itself, de- 
veloping leadership ability for the laity, and making plans for signif- 
icant new forms of ministry. Progress had been made under Elmore 
Turner to move the church to a functional committee system. During 
the period between Turner and Alexander the Board had begun a 
study of a rotating Board system that would allow a regular turnover 
in church leadership. In his first meeting with the Board, Alexander 
asked all committee chairs to begin meeting with him monthly as an 
advisory committee (this would soon become the church cabinet). 
By October of 1953 the Board was ready to move, and with the ap- 
proval of the congregation several changes were adopted: 1 . Board 
members would be elected in a rotating fashion, meaning that a year 
must elapse between three year terms of service; 2. The Board of 



Maturing in Faith and Service 125 



Elders would serve as the nominating committee for the Board; 3. 
That there would be fifteen elders, forty-five deacons, and fifteen or 
more deaconesses. The church continued the practice of ordaining 
elders, deacons, and deaconesses. 7 

While changing the organizational structure of the church Board 
to make it more efficient and representative, the church also moved 
forward in program development. No area was more important than 
the plans to bring in a new staff person to work in the area of edu- 
cation. For several years the church had enjoyed the leadership of a 
Director of Religious Education, and the Board planned to pursue 
another person for this post. In May of 1955 Churchill Goodwin 
Moore was called to serve as Minister of Education. The change in 
title from Director of Religious Education to Minister of Education 
was more than mere nomenclature. The typical DRE had at most a 
one or two year master's degree, with heavy emphasis on education. 
They were generally not ordained, and often were limited in their ar- 
eas of competence in ministry. The Minister of Education was to be 
an ordained minister, fully prepared with a three year graduate pro- 
fessional degree, the Bachelor of Divinity (now the Master of Divin- 
ity degree). The Minister of Education would be capable of serving 
in all areas of ministry. 8 

Goodwin ("Goody") Moore was a native of near-by Ayden. He 
attended East Carolina College before transferring to Atlantic Chris- 
tian College. He studied at the College of the Bible 1952-1955, and 
wrote a thesis on "The Emergence of Religious Education as a 
Specialized Ministry and its Function in Restoring Wholeness to the 
Church." Moore was also an accomplished organist. His position at 
Washington was his first full-time ministry. As a youth he had served 
as President of the North Carolina Christian Youth Fellowship, and 
had served as chair of the worship committee of the International 
Christian Youth Fellowship Commission. He was prepared to make 
an impact on a congregation and a state in Christian education and 
youth ministry. 9 

Under Moore's guidance, the youth program in the church began 
to grow. The youth became more involved in the life of the church, 
and their enthusiasm spilled over into the city, and in ever-widening 
Disciples circles. In Moore's first year, two youth of the church 
worked with their Minister of Education to write a drama concerning 
the Christian World Friendship Fund, and presented it before the 
first State Christian Youth Fellowship Convention in December, 



126 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 

1955 . That same month Moore and the young people of the congre- 
gation organized the Washington United Christian Youth Movement, 
an ecumenical youth program for the city. Donald Ambrose from 
First Christian Church was elected president. 10 

The next year Moore attended a convention of the National 
Council of Churches at which he participated in sections working on 
Christian education and youth work. The youth, meanwhile, were 
moving into leadership among the Disciples. In September of 1956 
Donald Ambrose and Lou Warner were installed as District CYF 
officers, and they reported on their attendance at a meeting of the 
International CYF Commission. During the November State Con- 
vention of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Society, Am- 
brose was elected State CYF President, and Lou Warner was chosen 
as Chair of the State Enlistment Committee. (At that same Conven- 
tion William Dunn had been elected State CMF President, and Ray- 
mond Alexander commented that perhaps the church should engage 
in a little political activity so as to elect the state President of the 
CWF!) During the youth portion of this 1956 State Convention, a 
pageant, written, staged, and directed by Goodwin Moore, was 
presented. 11 

Throughout the ministry of Goodwin Moore, the youth of the 
church gave of their time and resources to support the church and 
outreach ministries of the church. As an example, in 1957 they pre- 
sented the church two brass vases to be used on the communion ta- 
ble. The Chi Rho regularly worked to help poor families have a 
better Christmas by gathering or buying foodstuffs, toys, and cloth- 
ing. The CYF painted the social room and repaired the stage during 
the summer of 1959. Like their grandparents during the construction 
of the church, the youth raised money for the building of the Bagby- 
Nunn Education facility. 12 

By 1957 the youth group had grown, with an average of fifty-six 
attending the Sunday morning Church School class and fifty-two at 
the Sunday evening program. That year Wyni Jane Everett was 
elected President of the District CYF, and Beverly Gautier was Dis- 
trict Study chair. Goodwin Moore spent much of 1957 serving as 
State CYF advisor. 13 

The next year Jimmy Silverthorne was elected Study Chair for 
the International Christian Youth Fellowship, and thus also a place 
on the International CYF Commission. Goodwin Moore called this 



Maturing in Faith and Service 127 



"the highest honor any young person has ever brought to this 
church." Raymond Alexander pointed out that only eight people 
from the entire denomination serve on the CYF Commission at any 
one time. "This is a signal achievement and a signal honor for this 
church." 14 

One of the leadership development projects instituted by Good- 
win Moore was the annual planning retreat for the CYF executive 
committee. The youth leaders and their adult sponsors, along with 
the ministers of the church, would spend a weekend, usually at a riv- 
erside cottage, for planning, prayer, and fellowship. The youth were 
given significant responsibility to plan the next year's youth pro- 
gram, with the adults serving as resource people rather than direc- 
tors. One result of this would be the development of future leaders of 
the church, and a number who would offer themselves for Christian 
ministry. 15 

Young people of the church continued to be chosen to serve as 
leaders for the larger church. In 1959 Brenda Toler was elected Pres- 
ident of the District Chi Rho, while Carol Adams and Mike Willis 
were elected District CYF officers. Willis in that same year was 
elected to the International CYF Commission, the second consecu- 
tive year the church was represented on the Commission by youth. 
Goodwin Moore also served as an adult member. Locally, Danny 
McNeil and Billy Jarman were elected as officers of the United 
Christian Youth Movement in Washington. In 1960 Glenda Day and 
G. E. Cooper were elected District Chi Rho officers. 16 

The content of the CYF program under Moore's leadership in- 
cluded serious study of a wide range of topics. In 1962 he reported 
that the CYF was "conducting a unity of study on Christian under- 
standings and beliefs.' ' A few months later the CYF studied the var- 
ious religions in America, including "unusual Protestants," Roman 
Catholicism and Judaism. During this study a number of the youth 
visited a worship service at Temple Israel Synagogue in Kinston. 
Rabbi Jerome Tolochko met with the youth and talked with them 
about Jewish faith and practice. Meanwhile, the CYF had also par- 
ticipated in the national Books are Bridges Contest, and in 1959 had 
won top place in the country for reading the most books. The Wash- 
ington young people reported 584 books read during the year. 17 

It was with deep regret that the church received a letter of res- 
ignation from Goodwin Moore in November, 1962. Moore had ac- 



128 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



cepted a position with the Seventh Street Christian Church in Rich- 
mond, Virginia. Moore expressed his appreciation for the op- 
portunity to work with the church for seven and a half years. 18 

Moore's departure was also lamented in the local press. Mary 
M. Toler, writing in the Washington Daily News, said, "Washington 
is going to miss Goodwin Moore." She noted that he had "not only 
served his church well, but his service to the youth of the church has 
gone 'well beyond the call of duty.'" Along with the youth of First 
Christian Church, he had worked with the other youth in Washing- 
ton. "As a talented musician, he has never failed to answer a call of 
his friends in other Washington churches." 19 

After organizing in 1950, the Christian Men's Fellowship of the 
Washington church continued to be active. By 1955 E. Leon Roe- 
buck was serving as District President of the CMF (and President of 
the Albemarle District Union at the same time), and in 1956 William 
Dunn was elected President of the State CMF. 20 

During the 1950s the Men's Bible Class grew to over 140 mem- 
bers with twelve teachers, and an average attendance of over 100 per 
Sunday. Before and after class, many of the members would stand 
along the sidewalk just outside the Academy Street entrance to the 
church basement — and their classroom — greeting passersby, talk- 
ing, and adding substantially to the economy of Eastern North Caro- 
lina by polishing off dozens of cigarettes. In addition to fellowship 
and study, the class has been a primary source of benevolent concern 
for the church and the whole community of Washington. 21 

Evangelistic methods in the 1950s changed little from the pre- 
vious two decades. It seemed that if the church tried, it was success- 
ful in reaching people and moving them to join the church, to 
become involved in the life of faith lived in that community. So it 
was throughout the city and the country. During the 1950s church 
membership reached the highest level in American history. 

The evangelism program of First Christian Church during 1954 
was typical of the period. A spring revival was planned for Easter 
week, this time with Raymond Alexander as preacher. The results 
were gratifying. Almost fifty joined during the revival, including a 
number of young people who had participated in a four week long 
"Pastor's Class" on the meaning of church membership, the life of 
faith, and the basic teachings of Christianity. The evangelism com- 
mittee conducted visits to homes of prospective members in the 
weeks prior to Easter. There were baptismal services both Palm Sun- 



Maturing in Faith and Service 129 



day and Easter, the Easter Sunday baptisms took place during the 
evening in a candlelight service. 22 

The next month twenty-two men of the church spread out over 
the town, visiting eighty-seven homes over a three day period, talk- 
ing with people about the church. The result was another forty-seven 
additions, with thirty-six receiving baptism. Another period of vis- 
itation was planned for the next two weeks. In the fall President 
Travis White of Atlantic Christian College preached a revival. His 
sermons were meaty feasts for people who wanted to learn about the 
Christian faith, and think about its deepest meanings. 23 

While evangelism is at the heart of much of the mission of the 
church, stewardship is one of the primary areas of concern for living 
the Christian life. Stewardship on the part of a congregation deter- 
mines much of the quality of witness by that congregation. Raymond 
Alexander understood this, and was committed to teaching and 
preaching about stewardship and the level of giving known as tith- 
ing. He was confident that if people would tithe for six to eight 
weeks it would become permanent for their lives. 24 Just as the church 
committed itself to youth in the ministry of Goodwin Moore, so the 
church also moved ahead with the building of new educational facil- 
ities. Concerns about education space had been raised as early as the 
mid- 1940s. One month after Raymond Alexander arrived, the issue 
was brought up as a matter of pressing concern. By 1955 Alexander 
was addressing the Board on the need for more adequate space for 
the older youth, and a building committee was appointed to seek 
ways to deal with the matter. In February of 1956 the Board accepted 
the recommendation from the Building Committee to move forward 
with a new education building, with initial estimates of $150,000 for 
the facility. In October of that same year the Wells Organization was 
employed to lead the church in the capital campaign. 25 

The fund drive was rather successful, and by March of 1957 
Wilbert Owens could report $105,000 pledged thus far. To celebrate 
the progress of the fund-raising, the Board decided that the educa- 
tion building would be named in honor of Richard and Daisy Bagby 
and Etta Nunn. And the Board accepted the Christian Youth Fellow- 
ship's recommendation that the chapel to be included in the Bagby- 
Nunn building be named for long time Board member Pete Diamond. 
Meanwhile, Alexander kept the pressure on the Board and the church 
to move forward with plans by citing the statistical evidence pointing 
to the need for the new facility. Alexander discussed the "crowded 



130 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



conditions and woefully inadequate space and equipment with which 
our teachers and children must work. . . . We are, indeed, reaching 
a critical stage and our need for our new building is rapidly increas- 
ing." He noted that throughout 1957 Sunday School attendance had 
averaged over 500 per Sunday. 26 

But the Board moved slowly, deliberately, choosing to proceed 
only as funds available were closer to the goal. Not until 1959 was an 
architect hired, and it would be 1961 before final approval to start 
construction was given. By that time Raymond Alexander had left 
Washington for Lexington, Kentucky. 

Despite rapid growth in membership and strong programs 
throughout the church, financial difficulties arose during 1958. Trea- 
surer Max Roebuck, at the April, 1958, meeting of the Board, re- 
ported "that the church was in dire circumstances financially." The 
1958 budget had been under-subscribed by more than $8,000, and a 
$3,000 deficit had been carried over from the previous year. The 
church was experiencing the impact of a nation-wide recession 
which proved to be deeper and more intransigent than most econo- 
mists expected. The church responded by encouraging greater sup- 
port of the church budget by the membership, and looked for ways to 
lower expenses without hurting program. By September it looked as 
if the church could end the year in the black without cutting the bud- 
get. As the year drew to a close, Wilbert Owens challenged the 
Board, saying that the church was a "sleeping giant," and this giant 
could be awakened through prayer and "sacrificial giving." 27 

By the time Raymond Alexander came as minister, the Wednes- 
day evening service was virtually dead, and the Sunday evening ser- 
vice, in difficulty for several years, was also on its way out. In 
Alexander's first year, Sunday evening services were cancelled dur- 
ing the summer. In early 1956 the minister recommended an exper- 
imental change in program, saving Wednesday evenings for church 
meetings, and using Sunday evening for teaching, with study groups, 
lectures, and interest groups looking at such topics as church history 
and denominational beliefs. The Board approved the recommenda- 
tion. The next year Reverend Alexander used the Sunday evening 
time for a long series on the Bible, followed by a series of lectures on 
church history. The next year Sunday evening services were can- 
celled June through September. The Sunday evening time was in its 
last gasp, except for youth programming. 28 



Maturing in Faith and Service 131 



Under Alexander's leadership a number of changes were made in 
the worship service. In 1954 youth were added to the serving sched- 
ule for communion. Two junior deacons were to serve with the reg- 
ular deacons each Sunday. Two junior ushers were assigned to light 
the candles on the communion table at the beginning of worship (it 
would be a number of years before they would be referred to as ac- 
olytes). In 1955 the church, apparently for the first time, observed a 
Youth Sunday. In each of these developments, Alexander's concern 
for recognizing and incorporating youth into the leadership of the 
church can be observed. His concern was for the future: That of the 
young people as well as the church. 29 

In 1955 the worship life of the church took a major step with the 
call of Charles Stevens, instructor in music at East Carolina College, 
to be choir director. Stevens made use of an already strong choir and 
brought choral techniques and classical church music to a new level. 
In a related move, under the leadership of Alexander the worship 
committee encouraged the ministers and choir director to be more 
intentional in relating hymns and anthems to the themes of the ser- 
mon. They were concerned that the service have integrity and unity 
throughout. 30 

Charles Stevens remained with the church for five years, and 
was succeeded as choir director in the fall of 1960 by Hannah Rob- 
erson Bagwell. Bagwell had served in an interim capacity several 
years earlier. She continued the practice of using a wide variety of 
music for the choir, ranging from classic choral compositions to set- 
tings for hymns and works of more contemporary composers. 31 

Raymond Alexander brought his ministry in Washington to a 
close, so he thought, in December of 1960, when he accepted a po- 
sition as the minister of the Woodland Christian Church in Lexing- 
ton, Kentucky. This allowed him to return home and serve near his 
family. He was succeeded in Washington by E. Rhodes Thompson, 
Sr. (1897-1973). Rhodes and Frances Thompson came to Washing- 
ton at the first of January, 1961, to serve in an interim ministry. But 
by March the elders of the church recommended that Thompson be 
called as permanent minister. 32 

Rhodes Thompson had studied at Transylvania College, the Col- 
lege of the Bible, and Yale. He had served churches in Kentucky and 
Canada prior to coming to Washington. He had spent many years on 
the Board of Curators of Transylvania College, had served on the 



132 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



Board of Trustees of the United Christian Missionary Society, and 
served as President of the State Convention of the Kentucky Chris- 
tian Missionary Society. Thompson also served on the Board of 
Trustees of the Cane Ridge Preservation Project. This group had 
charge of protecting the old Cane Ridge Meeting House where Bar- 
ton W. Stone had begun the ministry that led to the formation of the 
Christian Church. Rhodes and Frances Thompson had four children, 
all grown when they came to Washington. One, Rhodes Thompson, 
Jr., is a minister. 33 

Thompson entered vigorously and actively into the work of the 
church. He reported that in his first two months he had made 200 
calls on the sick, shut-ins, inactive and new members. He noted that 
there had been twenty-nine additions to the church, and he hoped to 
top ninety by Easter. Easter came and some 815 attended the two 
services. 34 

Within a year and a half of his arrival, he was elected President 
of the Beaufort County Ministerial Association, serving as each of 
his successors had for several decades. In 1963 one of Thompson's 
sermons, "The Dimensions of the Gospel," was published in the na- 
tionally recognized Pulpit Digest. 35 

A year after Thompson arrived enough money had been raised 
to allow the Board to feel comfortable in recommending that the con- 
struction of the Bagby-Nunn Building should begin. By then the an- 
ticipated cost had grown to $180,840. On August 13, 1961, the 
cornerstone was laid with a special celebration that included placing 
items of historic interest in the cornerstone. 36 

In addition to the Bagby-Nunn Educational Building, the church 
was also now considering purchasing new land for parking and re- 
modeling the sanctuary. The plans for the sanctuary resulted in a sig- 
nificant change in the appearance of the worship space, but it came 
through a painful and difficult period of conflict. 37 

In 1962, as plans for the remodelling were underway, it was 
learned that W. R. Roberson had left the church $5,000 to be used 
for permanent improvements to the church, with the Roberson family 
approving any use of the funds. The family asked that the legacy be 
used in the renovation of the sanctuary, specifically the paneling, 
lights, and chancel furniture. 38 

As the plans proceeded, a controversy arose as to the placement 
of the communion table. A special sanctuary renovation committee 
had been appointed by the Board to oversee the renovation of the 



Maturing in Faith and Service 133 



sanctuary. That committee had done its work and their plans were 
made available. Some church members were distressed when they 
discovered that the plans called for the communion table to be flush 
against the front wall of the sanctuary. The issue was taken to the 
Worship Department. 39 

The worship department felt itself under pressure from two di- 
rections, and the opinions and feelings being expressed were held 
with great passion. In early January, 1963, the Department sug- 
gested that the congregation decide. Leaders in the Official Board 
indicated that the Board had to act before the issue could be taken to 
the congregation. The Board authorized the Worship Department to 
make the decision, and in February, 1963, Chair William Peele re- 
ported that they had decided to stay with the recommendation of the 
sanctuary renovation committee, and have a communion table flush 
against the wall, giving the effect of an altar. 40 

The controversy was for the most part a matter of aesthetics over 
against theology and tradition. For some members, including the 
minister, a communion table in a Disciples church has to have the 
form of a table, which means that elders and ministers should be able 
to stand behind the table at the time of the observance of the Lord's 
Supper. To have an altar puts more emphasis on the Communion as 
a sacrifice; and, they argued, to have a sacrifice requires a priest (a 
priest by ancient definition is one who does ritual sacrifices). In the 
course of the debate the "table" party solicited and received a letter 
from Gaines M. Cooke, Executive Secretary of the International 
Convention of Christian Churches. He agreed with those who wanted 
a table, and said that in all of his travels among Disciples churches he 
could "not recall of any communion table which was also an 
altar." 41 

The opposing viewpoint was that in placing the table against the 
wall it was possible to make use of the raised area immediately 
against the wall for flowers and a cross, and that the resulting effect 
was one of beauty and grace. They did not believe that an "altar ef- 
fect" meant that the First Christian Church was abandoning its Dis- 
ciples heritage about the table, but simply that the table was placed 
against the wall. 42 

The heat generated during this controversy was greater than any 
previous conflict within the memory of active church leaders. The 
reason the dispute created such energy was that those who held op- 
posing views were people of strong opinion, and they had the ability 



134 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



and willingness to argue a point with passion. For these people, 
questions of theology and the meaning of the faith mattered. Equally 
at stake was a sense on the part of some that one family was trying 
to use its wealth to control the church. On the other side, a family 
with deep and long commitment to the congregation believed that 
their views had validity, and that the beauty of their design would be 
an appropriate memorial to their patriarch. In many congregations, 
of many denominations, in many places and times, this would have 
had the makings of a congregation dividing issue. Despite the pas- 
sionate arguments, the anger and frustration, the community of faith 
held together even in the face of a wide divergence of opinion. 

Regardless of the amount of time and energy given over to the 
questions surrounding the renovation of the sanctuary, other issues, 
issues involving the witness and activities of the church continued to 
be of primary importance. In a decision that reflected the atomic age 
and the dangers as well as the fears of the cold war, in 1962 the 
Board approved allowing the Civil Defense Committee to use the 
church as a nuclear fall-out shelter. 43 

During the 1960s the United States made a determined effort to 
raise the quality of housing available to its poorest citizens, and at 
the same time improve the economic health of the cities. One major 
program in this regard was Urban Renewal. When funds were made 
available for local projects, the ministers of Washington expressed 
their concerns for the poor before the city council as well as their 
churches. In July, 1961, Rhodes Thompson represented the Ministe- 
rial Association when he spoke at the first public meeting in Wash- 
ington on urban renewal. When opponents argued that putting poor 
people in decent housing would simply turn "the decent houses into 
slums," Thompson argued, "that he had observed that it is impos- 
sible to 'take the slums out of people until you have first taken the 
people out of the slums.' ' ' The city accepted the urban renewal pro- 
posal, and both Reverend Thompson and church member Phil Willis 
were appointed by the mayor and city council to serve on the Federal 
Housing Authority to be set up as a part of the program. Three mem- 
bers of the congregation's Christian Action and Community Service 
Committee were named to the Urban Renewal and Federal Housing 
Committees. 44 

While the Urban Renewal program was being supported by the 
ministers and churches of the city, the Ministerial Association, again 



Maturing in Faith and Service 135 



under the leadership of Rhodes Thompson, began another project for 
the community. In December of 1962 the Beaufort County Mental 
Health Association had been established. Thompson was noted in the 
Washington Daily News as saying that they hoped to be able to de- 
velop a mental health clinic as soon as possible to help deal with in- 
dividuals and families suffering from emotional problems and 
conflicts. 45 

Rhodes Thompson's ministry in Washington was vigorous if 
brief, a time of intense engagement with issues both within the con- 
gregation and in the community. On May 2, 1963, Thompson sent a 
letter of resignation to Dr. Ray Silverthorne, chair of the Board of 
Elders. He said that his initial commitment to Washington had been 
to do an interim ministry, and that during the almost two and a half 
years that he and Frances had been there they had been able to over- 
see the building of the education building, the renovation of the sanc- 
tuary, and paying off a deficit in the regular budget. In addition, 
there had been significant increases in attendance at church services 
and Sunday school. By January of 1963 worship attendance had 
reached an average of over 400 per Sunday, and more than 150 had 
been added to the congregation during Thompson's ministry. Giving 
to world outreach had also risen noticeably. "It is our belief that you 
are now ready to seek for leadership of longer range duration that 
[sic, read "than"] we can offer. We, therefore, are submitting our 
resignation to take effect as of June 12, 1963." 46 

In September of 1963 Glenn Haney, retired minister from First 
Christian Church in Greenville began an interim ministry in Wash- 
ington. He agreed to stay in residence at the parsonage three days a 
week and fill the pulpit on Sundays. 47 In six months the church had 
lost both an extraordinary Minister of Education in Goodwin Moore, 
and a most capable Senior Minister in the person of Rhodes Thomp- 
son. With a new education facility and a renovated sanctuary, the 
congregation felt itself ready to move forward, and needed only the 
right leadership to give guidance and direction. Their choice was pe- 
culiar, and brilliant. 

In October of 1963 the Elders of First Christian Church recom- 
mended to the Board that Raymond L. Alexander be called to return 
to the church as minister. The Board and congregation responded 
with an enthusiastic affirmative vote. Alexander wrote to the church, 
"It is a great honor to be called as the minister of any congregation 



136 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



at any time. To be called to return to a former pastorate is doubly an 
honor and an humbling experience." On January 1, 1964, the Alex- 
anders were back in Washington. 48 

During the first few years that the Alexanders were back in 
town, the church had opportunity to purchase some land across from 
the church on Telfair Street. Through negotiations with the Wash- 
ington Redevelopment Commission over several years the church 
was able to buy land on either side of Telfair Street, stretching from 
Second to Third Streets, close Telfair Street in that block, and turn 
the space into parking for the church. 49 

Meanwhile the overall church budget grew from just under 
$40,000 to over $80,000 during the second period of Alexander's 
ministry, from 1964 to 1972. For at least a part of this period 25% of 
the church budget went to outreach. Much of the increase in giving 
could be attributed to the beginning of an era of inflation in the na- 
tional and world economies. But part of the reason may have been a 
change in funding principles by the church. In 1965 it was agreed 
that there would not be an every member canvass, there would not be 
a pledge drive. Rather, each member would be encouraged to think 
through their stewardship and act accordingly. The Board would 
build budgets on the basis of recent performance and use their best 
judgment as to what would happen the coming year. 50 

Less than four months after Alexander was back in the pulpit in 
Washington, the State Convention of the North Carolina Disciples 
came to town. Wilbert T. Owens chaired the local arrangements 
committee as they prepared to host the hundreds who would stream 
in from all over the state. Speakers for the event included Charles H. 
Bayer, then pastor of the First Christian Church of Alexandria, Vir- 
ginia, and nimble Disciples gadfly during the sixties and seventies. 
Mae Yoho Ward, Vice President of the United Christian Missionary 
Society, was another speaker. She had made herself beloved of Dis- 
ciples across the world by her deep personal faith and concern for 
individuals and congregations. A. Dale Fiers, Executive Secretary of 
the International Convention, was the third major speaker. 51 

The Washington congregation continued to give leadership to 
the North Carolina Disciples. In 1967 the church led the state in total 
outreach giving, more than $24,000. E. Leon Roebuck and Ray Sil- 
verthorne both served on the Board of Trustees of Atlantic Christian 
College, where Leon and Essie Roebuck had established a scholar- 
ship fund. Alexander was chosen for the Resolutions Committee of 



Maturing in Faith and Service 137 



the State Convention, and he was elected to a term on the Regional 
Board in 1971. Locally, the minister also served as an officer of the 
Ministerial Association and the Board of Advisors of the Salvation 
Army. He continued to be a Trustee of Lexington Theological 
Seminary. 52 

When the 1960s began, the Disciples began a North America 
wide program called the "Decade of Decision." This was a proposal 
to move the church to new heights in stewardship, recruitment for 
ministry, and evangelism. In May of 1960 Alexander presented the 
program to the church Board and encouraged the Board to support 
the concept. He said that this "would require the utmost Christian 
faith and loyalty" by each person and congregation. The challenges 
would be great. The church agreed to participate, and accepted a 
goal of giving as much for others as for themselves by 1970. This 
would lead to 50% of the budget given to outreach. Reverend 
Thompson also strongly supported the Decade of Decision program, 
and led the church in hosting a District Consultation on the Decade 
of Decision, with representatives present from the national and state 
staffs. 53 

Washington was one of many churches to accept the goals of the 
Decade of Decision. But the decade of the sixties seemed to have its 
own mind. The Civil Rights Movement moved into high gear, and 
minds and hearts were increasingly turning to hear the news from a 
far away Southeast Asian country called Viet Nam. The streets and 
college campuses of America were turned into places of political ac- 
tion, and sometimes violence. 

For the Disciples, in addition to dealing with the great issues of 
the day — issues that would beat on the doors of churches if any 
would dare bar the way — the decade became one in which a major 
over-haul of how the church was organized and thought about itself 
was undertaken. This process was called Restructure, and moved the 
church from its nineteenth century shape into a new form for a new 
day. Most important was the change in concept from Christian 
Churches (Disciples of Christ) to Christian Church (Disciples of 
Christ). Names changed. Instead of state organizations there were to 
be regions. Instead of State Secretaries, there would be Regional 
Ministers. Instead of a state or international convention, there would 
be Regional and General Assemblies. 

The Washington church participated in the process of Restruc- 
ture, hosting a state- wide meeting on the meaning of Restructure in 



138 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 

November, 1964. A. Dale Fiers, who had spoken in the church dur- 
ing the State Convention just a few months earlier, was back in town 
to present the proposals of the Restructure Committee. (Fiers would 
become the first General Minister and President under Restructure.) 
Dr. Alexander presented a series of Sunday evening classes on Re- 
structure during 1966. And as the process moved towards comple- 
tion, Alexander served on the first General Board of the Christian 
Church, fine-tuning and interpreting what Restructure would mean. 
Where Restructure changed the shape of the state, national and in- 
ternational manifestations of the Disciples, the congregations were 
only minimally affected. But one casualty was the Decade of Deci- 
sion. The church could not sustain the energy required for both 
programs. 54 

While Restructure changed the shape of the Disciples, the Civil 
Rights Movement was changing the face of America, particularly 
those parts of the United States where Blacks and whites lived in 
close proximity, as in Washington. For years the ministers and lay 
leaders of the Washington church had participated in programs to 
improve race relations and to work for the good of the Black people 
of the community. When the Civil Rights Movement began, many 
persons, Black and white, were nervous about what might happen in 
the years to come. Many became angry, and in community after 
community confrontation led to violence and deepening bitterness. 

In Washington, though all of the same dynamics were present as 
in other communities, there was a difference. While racism had been 
just as much a part of official and private life there as in the rest of 
Eastern North Carolina, the move towards racial integration and the 
dismantling of the more obvious and oppressive forms of racism 
went relatively smoothly. Surely the regular contact between and 
sharing of worship among Christians of both races, at least since the 
early 1940s, had something to do with this. 

When the Supreme Court issued the Brown vs. Board of Edu- 
cation desegregation decision, Alexander had been in Washington 
only briefly. He felt that he could not yet address the issue publicly 
since he had moved to Washington from "up north." But he did 
agree to pull together a community group for discussion. Samuel 
Freeman, visiting Eastern North Carolina on behalf of the Southern 
Regional Council, addressed the question in a sermon at First Chris- 
tian, and had a very positive response. In the late fifties Alexander 
began participating in a program in which he spent two nights a week 



Maturing in Faith and Service 139 



teaching ministers and lay leaders of the Black Disciples churches of 
the District. As a result he was asked by the Norfolk- Washington 
quarterly District meeting of the Black Disciples to speak on the 
work of the minister. Both Goodwin Moore and Mona Jarvis also 
participated in this education program, and they reported that it had 
been a rewarding experience. 55 

In 1961, as racial tensions were escalating, the Christian Action 
and Community Service Committee, chaired by W. B. Scott, Jr., 
said that "his department endorses [the idea] that we keep a Chris- 
tian attitude toward racial integration." The committee kept this is- 
sue at the forefront of its concerns over the next several years, and 
led the church through observances of Race Relations Sundays. The 
pulpit became a primary source of the message of the church that 
racial bigotry and intolerance are incompatible with the Christian 
faith. 56 

With the return of Alexander, the Christian Men's Fellowship 
was re-organized after a period of inactivity. But this attempt did not 
stick, and in 1970 Margaret Winfield, on behalf of the CWF, chal- 
lenged the men to establish a functioning CMF program. Raymond 
Alexander urged a positive response, and in January of 1971 a group 
of men met to try again. This time it worked. In March fifty-six men 
gathered to work together for fellowship and the ministry of the 
church. Bill Worsley was elected President. In their enthusiasm they 
attended the District CMF meeting and came away with William 
Lurvey elected District President and Cyril Merrick District Secre- 
tary. Later that year the CMF chose as an annual project the provid- 
ing of a Christmas party for mentally retarded children from the 
county. 57 

The Christian Women's Fellowship maintained its role as the 
backbone of the church throughout the period of the fifties and the 
sixties. A perusal of the minutes of the CWF presents a picture of 
numerous projects for the good of others. There were collections of 
trading stamps, coupons, and old clothing, all for various causes in 
the community and around the world. Many of the projects had to do 
with fund raising tasks, including an annual bazaar. In addition, 
there were constant efforts to assist the church, from purchasing sup- 
plies and appliances for the church kitchen to draperies for the par- 
sonage. Especially with the leadership of Lillian Griffin, the women 
assisted the church and raised funds by serving meals for special 
occasions. 



Maturing in Faith and Service 141 



Meanwhile, Eva Vann served a term as President of the Albe- 
marle District CWF. Numerous women over the years attended the 
CWF Quadrennial Assemblies meeting at Purdue University. And in 
1971, it was reported that the CWF in Washington ranked twenty- 
ninth out of five thousand churches across the nation in giving to 
Unified Promotion. The women maintained their emphasis on teach- 
ing and learning about the world-wide mission work of the Disciples. 
In 1968 they hosted Claylon Weeks on his farewell furlough as a Liv- 
ing Link missionary. 59 

While struggling with the great issues of the day, the congrega- 
tion had also to continue to be faithful to its mission of education and 
ministry to its membership. When Goodwin Moore left at the end of 
1962, he was replaced temporarily by Robert Whitely, a student at 
Atlantic Christian College. When summer arrived and the Thomp- 
sons resigned, the Board decided not to pursue a full-time successor 
to Moore until a new minister was in place. Life-long member and 
experienced teacher Margaret Leggett Buck was engaged to work 
with the CYF. The next year, while still searching for an Associate 
Minister, another long-time member, Laura Lilley Jarvis, was 
brought on staff to work with the Chi Rho age. 60 

The youth maintained their tradition of active involvement be- 
yond their own concerns. In 1964, four of the young people were 
elected to District offices, Marjorie Spruill was chosen District Chi 
Rho President, Loretta Woolard District CYF President, with Brenda 
Cothern as chair of Worship and Warren Everett as Service chair. 61 

After four years of searching, Donald K. Mertz was called as 
Associate Minister in May 1967. A native of Bluffton, Indiana, 
Mertz was a graduate of Southern Bell College of Kentucky and Lex- 
ington Theological Seminary. 62 

By the time Mertz arrived, the nature of the membership of the 
congregation had changed, a change reflected in part in his title as 
Associate Minister rather than Minister of Education. The children 
known as the "baby boomers," those born in the last years and the 
decade thereafter of the Second World War were now moving on to 
adulthood. The number of children in churches — and schools — all 
across the nation, was levelling off or declining. The needs of the 
church were thus changing, and Donald Mertz provided the kind of 
general ministerial leadership that would most assist Raymond Al- 
exander in serving the congregation. 



142 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



Mertz stepped into the position with a quiet ease. After only 
three years as an Associate Minister, he was elected President of the 
Ministerial Association, having already served as Treasurer and Vice 
President. He was active in the Lion's Club, the Beaufort County 
Mental Health Association (Vice-President), Washington United 
Fund Advisory Board, Salvation Army Advisory Board, Advisory 
Board for Curriculum Planning — Mental Health Hygienist Pro- 
gram — Beaufort County Technical Institute. If that were not enough, 
he also found time to marry Frances Dimmitt in Lexington, Ken- 
tucky, and a year and a half later they had a son, John Dimmitt 
Mertz. 63 

In education, Marjorie Spruill was elected President of the State 
CYF in 1969, Donald Bunch was chosen Vice President of the Al- 
bemarle District CYF, and Kenneth Swanner was made a youth del- 
egate to the District. The Young Adult Sunday school class 
developed an interest in the needs of the aged. Ann Warner headed a 
committee on the care of patients at the Beaufort Country Nursing 
Home, and took a proposal from the class to the church Board that 
the church urge the state legislature to move to requiring licensing of 
county owned facilities. The Board responded with an affirmative 
motion to be sent to State Senator Ashley Futrell. 64 

One of the primary areas of responsibility given over to Donald 
Mertz was the work of the Consultation on Church Union. COCU is 
a movement looking towards the union of churches. It began in 1960, 
and quickly spread to a number of denominations, including the Dis- 
ciples. While most of the attention has been given to national meet- 
ings of representatives from the denominations, there has also been 
significant activity at the grass roots level. Washington, North Caro- 
lina, has been especially active in working for unity among the 
churches. A long history of cooperation in service and worship, go- 
ing back at least to the earliest days of the twentieth century, pro- 
vided fertile soil for the ideas and proposals emanating from COCU. 
In 1966, the Christian Action and Community Service Committee 
recommended to the Board that the minister, along with guest min- 
isters from the other denominations represented in Washington, 
present a series of Sunday evening sessions discussing the issues in- 
volved in COCU. 65 

In January of 1968 Dr. Alexander reported that the four churches 
in Washington participating in COCU (Christian, United Methodist, 
Presbyterian, and Episcopal) were planning to do some studies to- 



Maturing in Faith and Service 143 



gether beginning the next month. He would be leading a discussion 
group at the Presbyterian Church. That same year there was a pulpit 
exchange among the four churches. In 1970 Don Mertz was sent to a 
seminar on COCU held at Princeton University. This was to help in 
interpreting the proposals coming out of COCU, including the antic- 
ipated provisional design for a united church. 66 

Mertz made a series of presentations to the various churches and 
groups within the churches about COCU. As a result the four 
churches planned to sponsor a junior high dance as a preliminary ac- 
tivity, and then a united vacation church school to be held at the 
Christian Church, with all four churches participating. The churches 
appointed representatives to meet on a regular basis to discuss a wide 
range of issues relating to COCU, including its impact on the 
community. 67 

With the arrival of the 1970s the ministers of First Christian 
Church began introducing some ancient Christian practices. In De- 
cember of 1971 Raymond Alexander wrote an article in the First 
Christian News about the meaning of Advent, and the historic rea- 
sons for Disciples and similar churches being "a bit slow to use the 
tools of the traditional Christian year." He said the early leaders re- 
sisted using any practice not clearly cited in the New Testament. 
"Born on the American frontier and nurtured by the philosophy of 
the American Revolution, we as a people had no time for, nor op- 
portunity to use, the embellishments of Christian worship." The tra- 
ditions of the Christian calendar, such as Advent, "are merely tools 
to be used to enhance the spirit and meaning of specific Christian 
teachings. When tools can be so used to help us arrive at milestones 
of celebration, better prepared for their deeper meaning, the use of 
such can be heartily recommended." He explained the symbols of 
Advent. Soon after the beginning of the new year, he wrote an article 
on the use of paraments and the meanings of the liturgical colors. 
Alexander hoped that the worship of the congregation would benefit 
from the great store of riches found in Christian tradition. 68 

Another change in the worship life of the church came when the 
old organ, complained about for thirty years, finally reached a point 
of no return. During the mid-fifties the organ had been virtually re- 
built. But in the late sixties it was creating significant challenges for 
the organist and the ears of all worshipers. On May 6, 1970, after 
months of study — and decades of waiting — the Board approved the 
purchase of a new Schantz organ. Two years later the organ arrived, 



144 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



and with the help of old friend O. M. "Skinny" Winfield of Burl- 
ington, North Carolina, the new organ was installed. A dedicatory 
concert took place on April 9, 1972, with Robert Burns King as or- 
ganist. Vivian Weatherly, still faithfully at the console, was de- 
lighted to be able to "sing a new song unto the Lord." 69 

After almost four years as Associate Minister, Don Mertz ac- 
cepted a position as pastor of the Erlanger Christian Church, Er- 
langer, Kentucky. He left Washington in May of 1971, with best 
wishes from a grateful colleague in ministry and a congregation that 
had benefitted from his gifts of ministry. Since Raymond Alexander 
was planning to retire the next year, it was decided to delay the 
search for a full-time associate minister. It would be a year before 
even an Atlantic Christian College student could be found. Robert 
Johnson began his service as part-time youth minister in September, 
1972. 70 

Alexander had made it clear as early as 1969 that he planned to 
retire in 1972. He and Betty had built a home in Washington where 
he could grow his prize winning irises. His ministry had been full 
and rich. At the January 5, 1972, meeting of the Board, he an- 
nounced his plans. 

At the end of July 1972 I will have completed 44 years in the min- 
istry of the church, and on July 15 will observe my 65th birthday. 
I have some very strong personal convictions about this matter and 
feel that I should retire upon reaching 65. If I should stay on be- 
yond this time then there would be no logical terminal date. . . . 
In that case the temptation would be great to stay on beyond one's 
ability to adequately serve, and that I would not want to do. 71 

Alexander was also concerned, since he and Betty had built a 
home in Washington, that he would have to take strong and definitive 
steps to maintain an ethical stance in regards to his successor. Min- 
isterial ethics forbid a minister from interfering in a former parish, 
and that includes functioning in any ministerial capacity without the 
clear invitation of the current minister. Alexander indicated that he 
would follow the minister's code of ethics to the letter. He would not 
be available for funerals, weddings, or counseling, no matter how 
much it hurt him or those involved. He let it be known that he in- 
tended to spend some significant time serving interim ministries, so 
that he would not be in Washington much of the first couple of years 
of his "retirement." 72 



Maturing in Faith and Service 145 




Church with Bagby — Nunn Educational Building, 1961 

Pen and ink drawing by Raymond L. Alexander 



When it became clear that his successor would not be available 
until the first of October, Alexander agreed to extend his term until 
the end of September. At the September 6, 1972, meeting of the 
Board, Alexander was unanimously elected Minister Emeritus. Soon 
thereafter, as he prepared to preach his last sermon as pastor of the 
church, he said that his title would be "Close the Gate Behind Me." 
He assured the congregation that it would "not be a 'farewell' mes- 
sage nor a 'tear jerker.' ... It will be largely based on Paul's state- 
ment, 'Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies 
ahead, press on towards the goal of the prize of the upward call of 
God in Christ Jesus.'" (Philippians 3:13-14) At the end of the ser- 
mon the congregation stood and applauded their faithful pastor. 73 

1 RB 8, pp. 89, 96, 99. 

2 Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society. 

3 RB 8, pp. 101, 103. 

4 Ibid., p. 117. 

5 Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society; RB 8, in- 
serted reports of the Minister, January 1957, May 1957; RB 8, pp. 251 , 259, 
271. 

6 RB 8, p. 242. 

7 Ibid., pp. 90, 104, 115, 124, 177. 

8 Ibid., pp. 139, 145, 162; Washington Daily News (May 20, 1955), 

p. 1. 

9 Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society; Washing- 
ton Daily News (May 20, 1955), p. 1. 



146 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



10 RB 8, inserted reports of the Minister of Education, December 7, 
1955, January 1956. 

11 RB 8, p. 185, inserted report of the Minister, December 1956. 

12 RB 8, pp. 218, 256-257, 274; RB 9, p. 79. 

13 RB 8, pp. 224, 226, 243. 

14 Ibid., pp. 247, 251, 257. 

15 Ibid., p. 259. 

16 Ibid., pp. 266,-267, 273; RB 9, p. 79; RB 8, p. 280-282. 

17 RB 9, pp. 99, 175; RB 8, p. 274. 

18 RB 9, Letter from Goodwin Moore to George R. Roberson, Chair of 
the Administrative Board. 

19 Mary M. Toler, "Your Church and Mine," Washington Daily News 
(December 1, 1962), p. 2. 

20 Washington Daily News (October 19, 1955, October 11, 1954); RB 
8, inserted report of the Minister, December 1956. 

21 Washington Daily News, clipping in Church Scrapbook 1954-1958; 
RB 8, inserted "Bulletin of the Education Department," November 20, 
1957; Washington Daily News (April 16, 1969). 

22 RB 8, pp. 127-128; Washington Daily News (April 19, 1954). 

23 RB 8, pp. 133, 139; Washington Daily News (October 2, October 6, 
October 7, October 8, October 9, 1954). 

24 RB 8, inserted report of the Minister, February 1957. 

25 RB 8, pp. 105, 184, 203, inserted reports of the Minister, June 1, 
November 2, 1955, January 1957. 

26 RB 8, pp. 213, 217, 224, inserted report of the Minister, April 
1957, inserted "Bulletin of the Education Department," November 20, 
1957. 

27 RB 8, pp. 241, 244, 252. 

28 Ibid., pp. 109, 168, 185, inserted report of the Minister, May 1957, 
RB 8, pp. 245-247. 

29 RB 8, pp. 129-130, 242, 158. 

30 Ibid., pp. 170, inserted report of the Worship Department, January 
1957, RB 8, p. 253. 

31 RB 9, p. 17. 

32 Ibid., p. 25. 

33 Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society. 

34 RB 9, pp. 24, inserted report of the Minister, April 12, 1961. 

35 Ibid., pp. 139, 158, 185, 212. 



Maturing in Faith and Service 147 



36 Ibid., pp. 258, 261, 282-283, 24-25, 31, 51, 54; Washington Daily 
News (August 15, 1961), p. 1. 

37 RB 9, pp. 17, 19, 21. 

38 Ibid., pp. 89, 156. 

39 Ibid., pp. 189-190. 

40 Ibid., pp. 189-191. 

41 Ibid. 

42 Ibid. 

43 Ibid., pp. 145, 247. ^Washington Daily News (July 11, 1961), p. 1; 
RB 9, pp. 64-65. 

45 RB 9, p. 157; Washington Daily News (December 13, 1962, pp. 1, 
5; RB 9, pp. 184-185. 

46 RB 9, letter from Rhodes Thompson to Dr. Ray Silverthorne, May 
2, 1963; RB 9, pp. 194, 219. 

47 Ibid., p. 233. 

48 Ibid., inserted report of the Elders, October 13, 1963; letter from 
Raymond Alexander to the First Christian Church, Washington, North Caro- 
lina, October 20, 1963. 

49 RB 10, pp. 27, 59, 252; RB 11, p. 201. 50 RB 10, p. 64; RB 11, pp. 
232, 267. 

51 Convention Program of the One Hundred and Nineteenth Session of 
the North Carolina Convention of Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ), 
April 24, 25, 26, 1964, First Christian Church, Washington, North Carolina 
Host Church, p. 3. 

52 RB 10, p. 180; First Christian News (April 16, 1971); RB 9, p. 100; 
RB 8, p. 218; RB 10, pp. 39, 86, 28; RB 9, p. 247. 

53 RB 8, p. 285; RB 9, pp. 16, 185. 

54 RB 10, pp. 19, 118, 223. 

55 Samuel F. Freeman, "Reporting on Field Service for Southern Re- 
gional Council Below the Fall Line in South Carolina and North Carolina, 
July 19-August 23, 1954," photocopy of typescript; RB 8, p. 282; RB 9, p. 
27. 

56 RB 9, pp. 27, 55; RB 10, p. 115. 

57 RB 9, p. 250; First Christian News (November 12, 1970); RB 1 1 , p. 
104; First Christian News (February 4, March 18, April 22, December 9, 
1971); 

58 CWF minutes. 

59 RB 8, p. 285; RB 9, p. 56; First Christian News (June 11, 1971); 
RB 10, p. 177. 



148 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



60 RB 9, pp. 189, 223, 251; RB 10, p. 118. 

61 RB 9, p. 253. 

62 RB 10, pp. 153-154; Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Histor- 
ical Society. 

63 RB 11, pp. 268, 297; RB 10, p. 197; Biographical files, Disciples of 
Christ Historical Society. 

64 Washington Daily News (April 20, 1969); First Christian News 
(May 6, 1971); RB 11, p. 285. 

65 RB 10, p. 117. 

66 Ibid., p. 171; First Christian News (January 8, 1970); RB 10, p. 
204, 213, 250. 

67 RB 10, p. 259; First Christian News (November 12, 1970); RB 11, 
p. 104. 

68 First Christian News (December 9, 1971, January 27, 1972). 

69 RB 8, p. 127; Washington Daily News (June 3, 1955); RB 10, pp. 
223, 246, 261, 283; First Christian News (February 10, March 2, April 6, 
1972); RB 11, p. 279, inserted organ dedication program. 

70 RB 11, p. 291; First Christian News (June 17, 1971, September 7, 
1972). 

71 RB 11, pp. 277, 287-288. 

72 Ibid., pp. 287-288, 292; First Christian News (May 11, 1972). 

73 RB 11, p. 8; First Christian News (September 21, 1972). 



Chapter Eight 

Weaving New Patterns 



On June 18, 1972, the congregation of First Christian Church 
called Glenn Weaver to be its next minister, with a beginning date of 
October 1. Weaver is a native of Wayne County, North Carolina. He 
studied at Atlantic Christian College, the College of the Bible, and 
earned degrees in education from Western Kentucky University and 
George Peabody College (now a part of Vanderbilt University). He 
earned his Doctor of Ministry degree at Lexington Theological 
Seminary. 1 

Weaver had served congregations in Kentucky, Virginia, and 
West Virginia. He had been at Bluefield, West Virginia, when he ac- 
cepted the call to Washington. Weaver's wife, Hilda, came to Wash- 
ington with experience as an elementary school teacher. They have 
one son, Stuart. 2 

In his first article for the First Christian News he remarked that 
his first Sunday would be World Wide Communion Sunday, "A 
great day for a minister of the Christian Church ... to begin a pas- 
torate. On that day we shall meet around a communion table 25,000 
miles long!" A few months later Board chair Bertie Cartwright eval- 
uated the new minister saying, he "Has exceeded our most optimis- 
tic expectations." 3 

During his ministry in Washington, Weaver has served on nu- 
merous local, state, and national boards and commissions. Among 
other positions, he has been President of the Beaufort County Min- 
isterial Alliance, served terms on the Regional and General Boards 
of the Church, and participated on the Personnel Committee of the 
Christian Church in North Carolina. 4 

No problem confronted by the church during Glenn Weaver's 
ministry has been more time consuming or frustrating than the 
search for a capable associate minister. Robert Johnson completed 
his one year term as student Youth Minister in the summer of 1973. 
Weaver urged the Board "to take some steps toward obtaining either 



149 



150 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



an Associate Minister or a Director of Christian Education. I'm quite 
concerned about the Christian Education program here." 5 

The Board responded by bringing in another Atlantic Christian 
College student, Larry Williams, as a part-time youth minister. 
Weaver expressed some frustration with the situation, saying that 
while "our boys from the college do the best that they can, . . . they 
are understandably limited by education and experience; however, I 
am grateful for any help that we can get in this area." 6 

Larry Williams was succeeded as student Youth Minister by 
Tom Davis in May of 1974. Davis remained with the church for three 
years while he completed his studies at Atlantic Christian College. 
His length of service brought some stability to the youth program, 
though because of time limitations he was able to offer little beyond 
working with the young people. Weaver still had the responsibilities 
of a very large church with only modest assistance. Indeed, the very 
presence of undergraduate students working at the church added to 
his responsibilities of oversight and supervision. Weaver understood 
that the student ministers were learners, and it was his task to help 
them learn while they also contributed to the programmatic life of 
the congregation. Tom Davis understood the situation well, and in a 
Youth Sunday service in November of 1976, challenged the congre- 
gation to take its responsibilities in education and for the youth more 
seriously, and bring in a full-time associate minister. The Board re- 
sponded, giving the "minister authority to act decisively in procur- 
ing the services of an Associate who will give a large portion of his 
time to Christian Education." 7 Giving the minister primary author- 
ity in this matter was symptomatic of a growing tendency on the part 
the lay leadership to "let the minister do it." 

Finally, in the spring of 1977, a promising candidate for an As- 
sociate Minister was found in the person of Larry DeLion. DeLion 
accepted a call from the church in April, and began his service that 
summer. DeLion is a native of Alliance, Ohio, and grew up in the 
church there while Samuel Freeman, Washington Timothy, was pas- 
tor. DeLion attended Mount Union College and received his Master 
of Divinity degree from Yale just prior to coming to Washington. 8 

But the mix did not work. DeLion brought energy and creativity 
to the position; however, from the start there was a missing element 
that sometimes occurs in the relationship between a church and a 
minister. In January of 1979 DeLion decided to pursue a doctoral de- 
gree on a full-time basis, and thus tendered his resignation as of June 
1 of that year. 9 



Weaving New Patterns 151 



DeLion was followed by David Thomas (Tommy) Hill, a senior 
at Atlantic Christian College. Hill was succeeded by Terry Harper 
who came to the church in the fall of 1980, and remained for three 
years. When Harper graduated and moved on to Lexington Theolog- 
ical Seminary (and there received the first Raymond L. Alexander 
Memorial Scholarship), the church called Freda Philbeck, another 
student. She was not only the first woman student to serve as youth 
minister, she was the first non-Disciple. Philbeck is a United 
Methodist. 10 

Meanwhile, Weaver continued to express concern that the work 
of First Christian Church could not be adequately covered by one 
full-time minister and a very part-time student. In May of 1984 the 
Board once again authorized a search for a full-time associate, with 
emphasis on education. Weaver told the Board that a mature person 
was needed, because the education ministry of the church needed to 
be rebuilt "from the bottom up." Meanwhile, Freda Philbeck grad- 
uated and moved on to seminary. She was replaced in 1985 by Den- 
nis Brewster. 11 

In late winter of 1986, a candidate was presented for the position 
of Associate Minister. During the congregational called meeting, 
however, concerns were expressed about the age of the candidate and 
whether or not this particular person would have the ability to work 
closely and effectively with the youth. While the initial vote was to 
issue the call, the affirmative vote was not nearly large enough in the 
minds of some of the leaders. A motion was made to rescind the call, 
and it passed by a substantial majority. Those involved in the search 
and Board discussion were clearly distressed. Not the least of these 
was Glenn Weaver. 12 

The search continued. A year passed. Finally a connection was 
made with a promising candidate. On July 12, 1987, the Board voted 
unanimously to recommend to the congregation that a call be ex- 
tended to Carol Wells Steffa. The congregation approved, and Steffa 
accepted the invitation. A native of Kinston, North Carolina, she 
came to Washington from Frankfort, Kentucky. She had served other 
churches in Texas. She is a graduate of Atlantic Christian College 
and Brite Divinity School of Texas Christian University. Her hus- 
band, Don, is also a seminary graduate. The Steffas have three chil- 
dren, Neil and Craig Gibbs, and Ian Steffa. 13 

So far as can be ascertained, Carol Steffa is the first ordained 
woman to serve First Christian Church of Washington. The only 
other possibility would have been Etta Nunn, and no record of her 



152 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



ordination can be found. Although Disciples have been ordaining 
women since at least 1888, it would seem that none of the women 
serving the Washington church prior to Steffa had been ordained. 
Steffa reported to the church that she had learned that she is one of 
eleven Disciple women ministers serving in North Carolina. 14 

Steffa was tapped quickly for service at the regional level. By 
1988 she was chairing the Special Ministries Commission and was 
serving on the Search Committee for a new Associate Regional Min- 
ister. She has shown herself to be a person of quiet strength, creative 
in finding and using resources, a gentle counselor and an effective 
leader of committees and other groups within the church. 15 

Other staff changes during the ministry of Glenn Weaver include 
the retirement of Evelyn Morris as church secretary. She began 
working at the church in February of 1953, and announced that she 
planned to retire after almost thirty years of service, on January 1, 
1983. During much of her career she also served the church as sec- 
retary to the Board and as treasurer. Sadly, shortly after her retire- 
ment, Evelyn Morris died of cancer. 16 

Morris was followed in the church office briefly by Joanne 
Dramstad, and then by Arlene Hagar. Hagar began her work in the 
summer of 1983, and continues in the position to the present. An- 
other change in the staff of the church came in the eighties. The Rev- 
erend Thomas Gibbs had served as custodian of the church since 
1959. In 1985 he retired, taking with him the deep appreciation of 
the church he had cared for over the previous twenty-six years. 17 

The youth of First Christian Church had welcomed Glenn 
Weaver as minister by presenting a production of "Godspell" just 
six weeks after his arrival. The performance was given on November 
12, 1972. Under the leadership of student Youth Minister, Robert 
Johnson, the production had energy and joy. The youth worked long 
hours in preparation, and their efforts were well received. One ob- 
server said, "Washington ... has never witnessed anything like 
' Godspell ' before. It was a shock, but they loved it!" The CYF was 
asked to give an encore performance at the Christian Church in Fay- 
etteville, at a girls reform school in Kinston, and then at the Regional 
Assembly in April, 1973. 18 

In 1984 it was reported that a reorganization of the District CYF 
had resulted in Bill Worsley of Washington being elected as District 
President, and student Youth Minister Freda Philbeck was chosen 
District advisor. The two were to visit churches without active CYF 



Weaving New Patterns 153 



groups and help them organize programs for youth. In 1988 Grace 
Parker was chosen as a District Representative to the Regional CYF 
Cabinet. Two years later Wes Ball was elected to the Regional Youth 
Ministry Cabinet. 19 

The youth continued to be involved in activities benefitting oth- 
ers. They participated in "Trick or Treat for Unicef," they had fund 
raising projects for Camp Caroline, and especially for the special 
camps for mentally handicapped children. They engaged in programs 
to help the poor, particularly around Thanksgiving and Christmas, 
and through projects such as a "Walk-a-thon" sponsored by the In- 
terchurch Forum. In 1985 the CYF volunteered to assist in serving 
communion at the nursing home or any other activity which the 
Board would recommend to them. They expressed their eagerness to 
help and serve the church. In 1986, Jim Parker and Bill Worsley were 
given the opportunity to attend a seminar in New York concerning 
world hunger. 20 

When Carol Steffa arrived at the church, the level of program- 
ming for and by the youth jumped significantly. Along with fellow- 
ship and study activities, there were numerous service projects 
planned, worship leadership, and participation in denominational 
and ecumenical events. A new program for older children was cre- 
ated with the establishment of the Junior Youth Fellowship for those 
in grades four through six. 

Another aspect of the youth ministry in Washington, at least 
since 1930, had been a scouting program. An Explorer Scout Post 
had been chartered in 1959. In 1978, the Cub Pack 21 was rechar- 
tered after a lapse of several years. Boy Scout Troop 21 continued to 
be strong, and to provide regular assistance to the church when 
called upon. By the 1980s Girl Scout Troop 729 had been organized, 
and a Brownie Troop was established in 1990. 21 

Throughout the decade of the 1970s First Christian Church par- 
ticipated in a new form of Christian education called the Christian 
Life Home Curriculum. This was "designed to help families with 
children at home (of all ages) meet situations as they arise in every- 
day home life in a Christian manner." In less than a year the fourteen 
families in the program began to have social events together, includ- 
ing the occasional weekend retreat. The Christian Life Home Cur- 
riculum continued apparently into the early 1980s. 22 

While much of the educational and fellowship emphasis of the 
church has been focused on the youth, another group was targeted in 



154 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



a new program developed in 1989 called the "Keenagers." It actually 
began as the "Keenagers Breakfast Fellowship," but soon spread its 
interests beyond simply gathering for breakfast on a weekday morn- 
ing. Aimed at those sixty-five and older, the Keenagers made sure 
that those who are unable to drive have transportation to the group's 
activities. As the months went by, they began traveling to places of 
interest together, enjoying fellowship and learning in the context of 
their commitment to the church. 23 

In an age when Christian Women's Fellowship groups around 
the country were shrinking in size and vigor, the CWF program at 
First Christian continued to be in the middle of the life and ministry 
of the church. A clear example is seen when, in 1987, Frances Tyer 
gave a year's summary of activities by the CWF. She reported that 
over 100 attended the monthly meetings. The membership had made 
1 1 ,745 visits and had taken up $7,971 .60 in offerings, over $5,800 of 
which went to Basic Mission Finance, the primary mission funding 
program of the Disciples. They had given special emphasis to help- 
ing families in times of grief, had provided flowers for the sanctuary, 
and had provided volunteers to work in the community soup kitchen 
while also assisting in a number of projects around the church. That 
same year it was noted that the CWF had participated in raising a 
truck-load of needed items for a migrant workers program. 24 

The Christian Men's Fellowship, after a twenty year on again, 
off again existence, came into its own in the 1970s and has main- 
tained an active program. They meet regularly on Sunday evenings 
for fellowship and study, and have continued to work with mentally 
retarded children, particularly at Christmas time. In 1982 they made 
a three year commitment to "adopt Breezy Banks Cottage" at Camp 
Caroline. They agreed to repair the building and keep it in good or- 
der. At the 1981 Regional Assembly Bill Peele was elected to a two 
year term as President of the North Carolina Christian Men's 
Fellowship. 25 

After twenty-five years of service as choir director, Hannah Bag- 
well decided to retire from her position in 1984. She had worked 
with three ministers, three associate ministers, and over a dozen stu- 
dent youth ministers. She had spent thousands of hours in rehearsal, 
and worked with numerous soloists and groups. A number of persons 
have served as choir director since Bagwell retired. 26 

Ever since the parsonage was completed in 1953, the church had 
been proud that its ministers had a comfortable and attractive home 



Weaving New Patterns 155 



in which to live. But when Ray and Betty Alexander decided to make 
Washington their permanent home, and determined to build a house, 
the church found itself caught between its pride and the clear prag- 
matic choice of renting the parsonage and thus providing a housing 
allowance for their minister. That had been done. When the Weavers 
first moved to Washington, the parsonage was returned to the use of 
the minister, and the congregation was pleased. However, the Weav- 
ers also saw the prudence of owning their own home. Reluctantly the 
Board recognized that this was in the best interest of the minister. 
Now, however, they were not dealing with a minister within a few 
years of retirement. Here was a case of a minister with many years of 
service left. The painful decision was made to sell the parsonage, 
and invest the proceeds. Use of the interest, so far as possible, was 
to be limited to paying the minister's housing expense. 27 

A significant step in the life of First Christian Church came in 
1979 when the first women elders were chosen. Since the very be- 
ginning of the congregation, women had played at least an equal role 
in building, supporting, and nurturing the congregation and its wit- 
ness. Finally the recognition came that women were indeed officers 
of the church, clearly functioning as "spiritual overseers" even 
though they were not formally recognized as such. On July 1, 1979, 
two women began a term of office as elder. Lillian Griffin and Mona 
Jarvis accepted this additional task from the church which each had 
served for many years. 28 

In like manner, within two years it was decided that there was no 
reason for women not to serve communion as deacons. It was agreed 
that the use of the term "deaconess" was in no way a limitation, but 
simply a use of a word that indicated that some deacons were female. 
Women who were deacons were to be expected to fulfill all those re- 
sponsibilities to which male deacons were called. 29 

Related to the re-thinking about the eldership and role of dea- 
cons came a recognition that the church had never adopted a consti- 
tution. Rhodes Thompson had led the elders in writing a constitution 
in 1962, but it had never been approved. Glenn Weaver, in going over 
old record books, had come across the discussion from the early six- 
ties, and found that the constitution proposed then had been tabled 
because of disagreement over terminology. He asked the elders to 
take another look. Two months later, in July of 1988, Ray Sil- 
verthorne was appointed chair of a constitution committee. He had 
also served on the committee in 1962. The consensus was that after 



156 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



a hundred years, it was time to codify the way the church is 
governed. 30 

The process began with an examination by the whole Board of 
the 1962 draft. It was agreed that a committee would revise the lan- 
guage to make it current. Two years later the committee brought the 
new text of the constitution to the Board. Numerous changes were 
made of a technical sort. On July 19, 1990, the Board adopted the 
proposed constitution as revised. At a September 9, 1990, meeting of 
the congregation, the constitution was approved unanimously by the 
congregation. The document did not change in any significant way 
the structure of the church, but did put in writing how the church was 
to be governed. 31 

Throughout the period of Glenn Weaver's ministry the church 
has continued its record of ecumenical and benevolent activity. The 
churches in Washington involved in the Consultation on Church 
Union — COCU — continued to meet and work together on common 
projects, learn about one another, and study proposals for the move 
to unity. By 1976, the original four churches (Christian Church, 
Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church, and United Methodist 
Church) were joined by another COCU denomination, the Christian 
Methodist Episcopal, a Black denomination rooted in the Methodist 
tradition. Together these five churches entered into a new level of life 
together, as they participated in the COCU sponsored Interim Eu- 
charistic Fellowship. This was a plan by which congregations of the 
COCU denominations would worship together and share the Lord's 
Supper — the Eucharist. Not only did they discuss with each other 
what they understood by the Lord's Supper, they overcame the bar- 
riers that normally might have kept them from fully celebrating the 
Supper together. 32 

Ironically, it was at least in part the success of this program, and 
its interracial character, that led to its demise. In 1980 the COCU 
churches decided to dissolve the COCU structure for their meetings 
in order to include other churches in the community, churches that 
were not a part of COCU. Especially important in this regard were 
the Southern Baptists and the Roman Catholics. The Interchurch Fo- 
rum replaced COCU as the cooperative organ of the churches in 
Washington. They worked together on numerous projects and com- 
munity worship experiences. Glenn Weaver served as one of the 
early Presidents of the Interchurch Forum. Related to the Interchurch 
Forum was the decision of the Christian, Methodist, and Presbyte- 



Weaving New Patterns 157 



rian churches to develop what they called "Adventures in Faith." 
This was a program to bring outstanding speakers to the community 
for a series of ecumenical services open to the community. 33 

These ecumenical relationships also resulted in new and creative 
forms of local outreach during the 1980s. The churches developed a 
soup kitchen and food pantry for the hungry, the "Zion Shelter" 
which provides overnight housing for the homeless, and a Food for 
Folks program that provided hot meals for the homebound. 34 

At the January 13, 1985, meeting of the Board, a letter from 
Paul Dunn was read, describing a memorial to his father which was 
to be established through a gift included with the letter. The memo- 
rial was to be the Bill Dunn Good Samaritan Fund. 

The intent of this fund is for it to serve the 'shepherd of the flock' 
with a means to assist when and where necessary to meet the needs 
of those who are in trouble, adversity, illness or misfortune of any 
kind, without having to wait for a committee to act, a board to 
meet or for any of the usual avenues of assistance to be pursued. 
There are many situations we know, and as Daddy was aware, 
which need immediate discreet attention for whatever the reason. 

The Dunn family hoped that others would want to add to this fund 
through memorial gifts or celebrations as a way of helping people in 
a quiet way. Nothing could have pleased Glenn Weaver more. His 
ministry, and his heart, always went out to the poor. 35 

Other benevolent activities during the 1980s included participa- 
tion in the settlement of a refugee family in 1982-1983. This was 
another project of the Interchurch Forum. The church has also pro- 
vided a lot for use by the Beaufort County Association for the Blind 
and Visually Impaired, so that they could build a facility to train 
those with severe vision problems and blindness. The CROP walk, a 
program to raise funds for the poor of the world through Church 
World Service has become an annual event. In the last two years the 
church has supported Habitat for Humanity, a program to provide 
low cost housing for the poor. And a Bereavement Support Group 
has been created to minister to those who are in grief over the loss of 
loved ones. All of these activities are rooted in the commitment of 
the congregation from the earliest days of its life to caring about 
those within the congregation and within the community. 36 

With such commitments, it is not surprising that the church re- 
sponded positively to a proposal to build a facility for the aged. The 



158 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



National Benevolent Association of the Christian Church (Disciples 
of Christ) provides a ministry to children and the aged throughout the 
United States and Canada. They were asked by North Carolina Dis- 
ciples to explore the possibility of a home in their state. The decision 
was to build in Williamston, and to name the project Santree. 37 

A goal of one and a half million dollars was set, with the Wash- 
ington church challenged to commit $121,500 over a three year pe- 
riod. Glenn Weaver was chosen as the first Chair of the Board at 
Santree, and Ann Traylor (Grist) was elected to that Board. The con- 
gregation did not reach the challenge goal, but did pledge $81,089. 
In 1982, as the facility was underway, local Timothy Oden Latham 
was called to serve as the NBA Director of Development for Santree. 
There was much interest and enthusiasm for the project. It was lo- 
cated nearby. The church and its members invested their funds and 
their time. They were delighted and proud that one of their own was 
given major responsibility for the facility. But the time, and the set- 
ting, was not right for an institution of this magnitude, and Santree 
did not survive. 38 

A 1985 campaign to strengthen the Regional work of the Chris- 
tian Church in North Carolina met with better results. Among the 
goals of this fund drive were to undergird new church development, 
the camp and conference program, and expand the office building of 
the Region. The Washington congregation accepted a challenge of 
$30,000. 39 

At the national and international level of the church, in addition 
to service by Glenn Weaver on the General Board of the church, 
Hannah Bagwell served a term on the Board of Trustees of Lexington 
Theological Seminary. Ray Silverthorne served a number of terms 
on the Board at Atlantic Christian College. The annual Disciples 
Week of Compassion offering remained an important concern of the 
congregation. In 1986 it was reported that the gifts of First Christian 
Church towards the Week of Compassion were the second highest in 
North Carolina. 40 

By 1990 some in the congregation were concerned that the 
church had entered a period of drifting without a clear focus. The 
Board decided that a period of evaluation might be helpful, and 
called upon the Disciples National Evangelistic Association to visit 
and conduct a Parish Enrichment study. Among the many recom- 
mendations coming out of the report were several directed at pro- 
gram development and evangelism. Others had to do with a 



Weaving New Patterns 159 



revitalization of the Sunday morning worship service. The report 
challenged the church to consider working on financial stewardship 
and upgrading facilities. For many, the most troubling recommenda- 
tion had to do with recognizing that Glenn Weaver was approaching 
retirement age, and that it was time to plan for a transition to a new 
Senior Minister. As a result, Weaver assisted the church by announc- 
ing his plans to retire as of June 30, 1991. 41 

As Glenn Weaver's ministry at First Christian Church of Wash- 
ington comes to a conclusion, he has reflected on what he believes 
have been the most important changes and emphases at the church. 
One he lists with pride is the role of women as elders and deacons, 
and second the arrival of the first ordained woman minister. Another 
sign of profound spiritual growth and maturity in the congregation, 
according to Weaver, has been the acceptance of a Black family into 
the life and leadership of the church. William Polk and his family 
have not only been regular worship participants, but also Bill has 
served as Deacon and now as Elder, elected to those offices by the 
congregation. In addition, other members of the church come from 
Middle Eastern and Asian backgrounds. Finally Weaver cites the 
many examples of ecumenical community outreach which have 
evolved, especially during the decade of the 1980s. He sees these as 
fulfilling the heritage of Disciples in general and the tradition of 
community concern by this congregation. 42 

One of the most distinctive marks of the character of the First 
Christian Church of Washington has been the number of Timothys 
and Priscillas that have come out of the church. According to tradi- 
tion, the number exceeds thirty, and if public commitments are in- 
cluded in the count, or if spouses of ministers are counted, as the 
church in earlier days would do, thirty would be a modest number. In 
terms of persons who have actually gone into ministry, the known 
number is twenty-six. 

Some of those claimed by the church were born and raised 
within the congregation. Others spent a period of time, generally- 
significant time, with the church prior to going into ministry. Most 
churches, even churches much larger and older than the Washington 
church, cannot come close to the number that First Christian of 
Washington can claim to have sent into the ministry. 

To search for reasons for this is to ponder the elusive issue of the 
personality of a congregation. At the close of Richard Bagby's.life, 
one person said that "His was a ministry so attractive as to make 



160 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



youth want to be ministers. He perpetuated his ministry by influenc- 
ing a score, or more, of young men to dedicate themselves to the 
kind of service that Brother Bagby was rendering to his God." 43 

Raymond Alexander said that he had pondered the question of 
why so many Timothys came from one church. He remarked: 

While there is no 'pat' answer, I have the feeling that there are two 
or three important contributing factors. One is the intangible 
something called 'atmosphere.' This is the felt, but often inex- 
pressible impression that our people in general leave upon others 
that the church is an important and vital matter, to them as indi- 
viduals. This is evidenced by the loyal support, generally good at- 
tendance, and provision of adequate facilities with which to work. 
Another factor is the importance attached to the educational pro- 
gram of the church, with building facilities to make teaching as 
effective as possible, . . . plus an excellent teaching staff across 
the years. A third factor is the acceptance of the young as respon- 
sible, capable churchmen. This is evidenced by our youth deacon 
and deaconess program. . . . There are many other influences that 
work upon people, such as home environment, that of individuals 
and the influence of God working in human life and affairs. . . . 
We are grateful for the contribution this church has made through 
the immeasurable value the lives and work our 'Timothys' have 
and will make to the Kingdom of God. We will remember the 
'shared ministry' of those we have and will send out into full-time 
Christian service. There is a very real challenge here for the 
future. 44 

Over the years the church had thought about the matter of en- 
couraging young people to consider the ministry. In the early 1950s 
an educational loan fund was established which included a scholar- 
ship provision for ministerial students. For many years one percent of 
the annual budget went into this fund. 45 

The twenty-six Timothys that have been identified in the course 
of this study are: 

1. Dennis Warren Davis, son of the first minister of the church, 
moved into Independent Christian Churches as a pastor. 

2. Thaddeus Hassell Bowen, long time pastor and professor of 
theology at the College of the Bible. 46 

3. A. C. Fodrey, pastor of several small churches, ordained at 
Washington in 19 14. 47 



Weaving New Patterns 161 



4. F. A. Lilley, in addition to serving numerous rural churches, 
was the long-time "Minister of Benevolence" at First Chris- 
tian Church. 48 

5. Leon Hill, last known as a ministerial student at Atlantic 
Christian College. 49 

6. Guy Saunders, pastor of many churches, especially in North 
Carolina. 51 

7. D. W. Arnold, businessman turned preacher, served primarily 
in rural churches in Eastern North Carolina, chose to follow 
the Independent Christian Churches. 51 

8. John Waters, preacher, teacher and administrator at Atlantic 
Christian College. 52 

9. Wilbur I. Bennett, ordained by the Washington church, appar- 
ently in 1928. 53 

10. Samuel F. Freeman, Jr., raised almost literally in the church, 
pastor and church leader. 54 

11. Ray Silverthorne, pastor turned physician, returned to Wash- 
ington to minister as a healer. 55 

12. James Alger Lollis, from Old Ford, spent part of his youth in 
the Washington church, life-long and much beloved pastor of 
several churches. 56 

13. Harold Tyer, of the Athens Chapel Church, has spent many 
years as minister and member of the church, and is claimed as 
one of its own. 57 

14. Frank Jones, originally from Bath, found his years in the 
Washington church a part of the inspiration that led him to 
ministry late in life. 

15. R. Frank Butler, another one ordained late in life, who served 
the Independent Christian churches. 58 

16. Joseph Lafayette Roberson, pastor of many years and a num- 
ber of churches. 59 

17. Frank Leggett, ordained after several years of secular work, 
has spent almost forty years in parish ministry. 60 

18. Marshall Leggett, brother of Frank, pursued ministry in the 
Independent churches, has been pastor of two large churches 
and is now President of Milligan College. 61 

19. David Lee Alexander, son of Raymond, entered seminary 
soon after his parents came to Washington, after years of par- 
ish ministry has become a Regional Minister. 62 

20. Shirlie Gaskins, when last heard from was preparing for min- 
istry in Christian education. 63 

21. Oden Latham, one of several influenced by Raymond Alex- 
ander and Goodwin Moore, has been a pastor, a development 
officer for the church, and now an Area Minister. 64 



162 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



22. Callie Clifton Garris, Jr., pastor of several churches in the 
South and the Midwest. 65 

23. Sammy Jones, after a number of years as a pastor left active 
ministry to work as a youth counselor. 66 

24. Richard L. Harrison, Jr., college and seminary teacher, now 
Dean of the Disciples Divinity House and a professor of 
church history at the Vanderbilt Divinity School. 67 

25. George Lee Parker, pastor of several churches, now serving in 
Montgomery, Alabama. 68 

26. Don Steffa, ordained November 18, 1990, is serving as pastor 
of the Bath Christian Church. 69 



Throughout the hundred years in the life of the First Christian 
Church of Washington, it has been a congregation that always mea- 
sured its spiritual health by what it was doing for others. The record 
reflected here of local outreach, local ecumenical activities, District, 
State (Regional), and General outreach, and numbers sent into min- 
istry reflects a community of faith that has been built on concern for 
others. It has also been a church marked by giving leadership, lead- 
ership in the community, in the state and at the national and inter- 
national level. It would seem that the strength of the congregation 
has been increased when members and ministers were most involved 
on boards and commissions and committees outside of the congre- 
gation. When the church has been most self-less, it has been most 
effective. 

Soon after Glenn Weaver came to Washington, he spoke of 
standing in the church's hall of history looking at the photographs of 
his predecessors in the ministry in Washington. And he asked, what 
makes a great church great? 



Was it those great preachers who served here? Or did a great 
church make its preachers great? It is a perennial question which 
defies a proven answer; however, it's most likely that whatever 
greatness there has been grew out of that peculiar chemistry that 
occurs when a great people and a good pastor faithfully serve to- 
gether. 70 



1 RB 11, p. 282; "Church Gets New Minister," Washington Daily 
News (September 29, 1972), p. 1. 

2 Ibid. 

3 First Christian News (September 28, 1972); RB 11, p. 44. 



Weaving New Patterns 163 



4 First Christian News ((June 18, 1978); RB 13, September 11, 1983. 

5 RB 11, inserted report of the Minister, July 11, 1973. 

6 RB 11, pp. 65, 87, 93-94. 

7 Ibid., p. 97; First Christian News (November 14, 1976). 

8 First Christian News (March 13, March 20, April 10, September 11, 
1977). 

9 Letter from Larry DeLion to Administrative Board, January 3, 
1979; First Christian News (March 4 and passim, 1979). 

10 First Christian News (September 16, 1979); RB 13, September 3, 
1980; First Christian News (April 24, 1983). 

11 RB 13, March 11, 1984; RB 14, July 8, November 11, 1984, Jan- 
uary 13, 1985, financial reports for 1985-1986. 

12 RB 14, March 9, March 16, 1986. 

13 RB 15, July 12, 1987. 

14 Ibid., September 6, 1987. 

15 Ibid., December 4, 1988. 

16 RB 13, September 12, 1982. 

17 Ibid., May 15, July 10, 1983; RB 14, November 10, 1985. 

18 RB 1 1 , p. 12; "Young People Show Love for Christ Through Play," 
Washington Daily News (November 17, 1972); RB 11, pp. 24, 33. 

19 RB 14, September 9, 1984; RB 15, March 15, 1988; RB 16, March 
11, 1990. 

20 First Christian News (October 24, 1976, January 23, March 27, 
1977, November 25, 1979); RB 14, September 8, 1985, May 18, 1986. 

21 First Christian News (February 12, 1978); RB 8, p. 256; First 
Christian News (May 10, 1981); RB 16, March 12, 1989, November 11, 
1990. 

22 First Christian News (January 8, December 2, 1971). 

23 RB 16, March 12, 1989, and passim. 

24 RB 15, January 4, May 3, 1987; RB 16, March 12, 1989. 

25 First Christian News (November 30, 1972, February 7, 1982, May 
10, 1981). 

26 RB 14, September 9, October 14, 1984. 

27 First Christian News (October 21, 1979, November 9, 1980); RB 
13, November 5, 1980, March 13, 1983. 

28 First Christian News (July 8, 1979). 

29 First Christian News (May 24, 1981). 

30 RB 9, p. 171; RB 15, May 15, July 10, 1988. 

31 RB 15, September 11, 1988; RB 16, July 19, September 9, 1990. 



164 Disciples on the Pamlico: A History of the First Christian Church 



32 Report of the Commission on Interim Eucharistic Fellowship to 
15th Plenary Meeting, Louisville, KY, March 9-12, 1982, Consultation on 
Church Union, pp. 6-7. 

33 First Christian News (January 31, 1982); RB 13, September 11, 
1983; First Christian News (January 9, 1983); RB 14, May 5, 1985. 

34 RB 14, May 5, 1985; First Christian News (July 7, 1985); RB 15, 
January 4, 1987, January 3, 1988; RB 14, July 14, 1985, October 13, 1986. 

35 RB 14, January 13, 1985. 

36 RB 13, September 12, 1982, July 10, November 6, 1983, January 8, 
March 11, May 13, , June 17, 1984; RB 16, January 14, May 6, 1990. 

37 RB 11, p. 74. 

38 First Christian News (January 18, October 24, 1976, February 19, 
1978, June 17, 1979, September 17, 1982). 

39 RB 14, May 5, July 14, 1985; RB 15, May 3, 1987. 

40 First Christian News (November 22, 1972); RB 14, April 8, 1986. 

41 RB 16, January 14, 1990; Richard Roland, "Parish Enrichment 
Conference Report," June 7-8, 1990; January 13, 1991. 

42 Interview with Glenn Weaver, March 8, 1991. 

43 "Richard Bagby Remembered," Chesapeake Christian (September 
1948). 

44 First Christian News (July 8, 1971). 

45 RB 8, pp. 84, 89. 

46 Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society. 

47 RB 2, p. 155; Yearbook of the Christian Church (Disciples of 
Christ) in North Carolina for 1916, p. 16. 

48 RB 11, p. 260. 

49 RB 5, pp. 177, 179. 

50 "The Church's Contribution to Ministry," Gospel Light (November 
1941). 

51 Charles D. Moore, Dave Arnold: Seventy-Five Years in Tar Heel 
Pulpits (Atlanta: Charles D. Moore, 1963). 

52 "The Church's Contribution to Ministry." 

53 Yearbook of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in North 
Carolina for 1929, pp. 3, 13. 

54 Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society. 

55 "The Church's Contribution to Ministry." 

56 Letter from James Alger Lollis to First Christian Church, Washing- 
ton, N.C., November 12, 1941. 

57 See Chapters 5 and 6. 



Weaving New Patterns 165 



58 "Asked to be Ordained," Gospel Light (February 1943). 

59 Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society. 

60 RB 8, p. 144. 

61 Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society. 

62 Ibid. 

63 RB 8, letter from Shirlie Gaskins to Administrative Board, Septem- 
ber 5, 1958; letter from Eva New to Raymond Alexander, September 2, 
1958. 

64 RB 9, p. 251; RB 10, p. 85. 

65 Biographical files, Disciples of Christ Historical Society; RB 10, p. 
86; RB 11, p. 233. 

66 RB 10, p. 86; RB 11, p. 233. 

67 RB 11, p. 298. 

68 First Christian News (April 16, 1978). 

69 RB 16, September 9, 1990. 

70 First Christian News (October 12, 1972).